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Masterwork ... review of the 2014 reissue.
on 5 March 2014
Can it really be 20 years already? 20 years since Gene rose to promenence, with "For The Dead", and 10 since they quietly disappeared, mourned by a handful, and forgotten by many? At one point they could have been kings. Now, overlooked and ignored by Megador Records, the band have quietly faded from view to day jobs and memories. In time, the bands work - an elegant body that combined the majesty of The Smiths with the muscular strength of The Faces and 60's era Mod bands, has aged with dignity and power. Over four albums, and catch all b-sides compilation "To See The Lights", the band explored humanity with increasing effectiveness and skill. By the time they got to the final record, the barely noticed "Libertine" they had become brilliant but niche hasbeens. This reissue series finally gives the band the dignity they deserve, with expanded editions of each record, appended with every b-side, an enormity of radio sessions (almost every single one the band recorded for the BBC,), and several live shows from the period, showcasing embryonic and early versions of many songs from subsequent albums - are a fascinating insight. Each of the editions is packed in a double CD set, with the original album appended by b-sides and extra songs. Disc 2 of each package generally tends to be a live radio session recorded for the BBC and live material.
"Drawn To The Deep End", the bands second album 'proper', was the masterwork : at the time, despite costing £300,000 and selling half a million copies worldwide, the label saw it as a failure. (For heavens sake, those kind of sales were significant at the time, and few bands play the Albert Hall without some promise, or appeal). The first side - made of four beautiful singles that explore loss, love, life, and meaning in a gentle but powerful frame - is one of the most powerful opening salvos of any record ever made. As it stands, the tide turned with the enormous failure that was "Be Here Now", which sank (in one indulgent 70 minute slab) every hope and dream of their peers and killed the band, and many of their contemporaries, overnight. It was no longer enough to sell well. You had to sell ridiculous. It was no longer enough to be a great band. You had to sell great numbers of units in supermarkets. This was the modern world, where selling half a million records was a failure. Which made Gene in last chance saloon, despite having crafted one of the finest records of the decade. Rossiter stepped out into his own with a unique and articulate style, the band themselves, no longer in the shadows of their influences, became masters of light and shade, power and restraint, unafraid of silence. The triple hit of "Where Are They Now?", "Speak To Me Someone" and "We Could Be Kings" was worth more in 12 minutes than the final 12 years of Oasis lifespan. That, and "Speak To Me Someone" is the kind of timeless and powerful song that will, inevitably, be discovered for some rubbish X-Factor muse's Uberballad in a few years time. After this, the record is beefed out on disc 1 with 8 non-album songs. Disc 2 is made of 8 songs live from the band's live peak, one night at the Albert Hall, and 6 BBC Session songs of the era that give a flavour of the material both before, and after, release.
They could have been kings.