It's hard to define the overarching sound of '90s Britpop. Bands like Oasis produced straight-up "lad" rock while art school graduates Pulp explored more experimental roads. In the midst of the UK's '90s indie guitar pop boom came Gene, a London-based four piece. Like their contemporaries, Gene were dubbed an alternative rock band. But they were so much more than the average Britpop group. Gene's five studio albums are receiving the deluxe reissue treatment in January 2014. For the Gene faithful, this is wonderful news. For those unfamiliar with this band, read on.
Early reviews of Gene compared them to Manchester's favorite sons, the Smiths. Lead singer Martin Rossiter provided smooth vocals over heartbreaking melodies. Rossiter didn't sing about going out to the pub with your mates and pulling birds. Gene's songs were deep and emotive. One journalist described the band's sound as "music to make grown men cry."
Gene rose to fame in the early '90s thanks to the buzz created by the British music press. When Gene released their debut LP Olympian in 1995, it received warm reviews and moderate chart success. Olympian is probably Gene's most "Britpoppy" record. Tracks like "Haunted By You" and "Left-Handed" appealed to the indie rock crowd. Olympian's softer, darker sound contributed to the press' tendency for drawing comparisons to the Smiths and Morrissey.
In 1996, Gene released a compilation record called To See the Lights. The album is made up of b-sides, non-album tracks, live tracks, and other rarities. Some critics called it Gene's very own Hatful of Hollow. It's a surprisingly cohesive record (for a compilation, that is!) and even features a number of covers. Gene's version of Dionne Warwick's "I Say A Little Prayer" is particularly memorable.
1997 saw the release of Gene's sophomore album, Drawn To The Deep End. While still a pop record, Deep End saw the band exploring a deeper sound. Songs like "Speak To Me Someone," "We Could Be Kings," and "Save Me I'm Yours" are tragic love songs. It's an album for the hopelessly lovesick, foreshadowing the sound that would define Gene for the remainder of their career.
By the time Revelations came out in 1999, Britpop was largely over. Post-Britpop bands like Travis and Coldplay were beginning to occupy the chart spaces once enjoyed by Blur, Oasis, Pulp, and others. This didn't affect Gene's sound. Revelations contains great indie guitar pop songs like "As Good As It Gets" and "The Looker" as well as Gene's signature brokenhearted tunes like "Something In the Water" and "In Love With Love."
Following the release of the 2000 live album Rising For Sunset, Gene released their final studio album in 2001. Libertine is much like Revelations - songs like "Walking In the Shallows" are true to the Britpop sound while tracks like "Is It Over" and "Let Me Move On" make Libertine the ideal soundtrack for a relationship's end.
The members of Gene split up amicably in late 2004. Since then, the band has maintained a dedicated fan base worldwide. Though a reunion seems very unlikely, the album reissues show that there is still plenty of love for Gene in 2013. For more information about the reissues, follow the Gene fan pages on Facebook and Twitter.