Well, I was mistaken, because it is most definitely that Gene who'll play a small Bumbershoot stage before folks who most likely have no idea whom they are listening to. Gene's latest album, Libertine, recently appeared seemingly out of nowhere here in the States, Imusic/ArtistDirect slipping it out in August.
Spawned of an earlier band called Spin, which fell into the baggy Stone Roses/Inspiral Carpets niche, Gene's debut was 1995's Olympian. Despite singer Martin Rossiter's undeniable vocal similarities to Morrissey, Olympian displayed a band whose songwriter (Rossiter) had a keen eye for blink-and-it's-gone-forever detail on subjects as dour as death and homophobia, delivered in a package that ranged from orchestral to guitar-driven mini-anthems. The love songs were aching and candid, and all that beauty, led by emotive guitarist Steve Mason, made the rest of the music getting attention at the time sound piddling and simple by comparison.
Drawn to the Deep End (1997), the aural personification of lavish, was the last album that registered on my radar, but two more albums were released: Revelations in 1999, and 2000's Rising for Sunset, a live recording of a show played at West Hollywood's legendary Troubadour.
So now we have Libertine, a fine reintroduction to some, and a means of acquaintance for others. Here Rossiter resembles Aveo's William Wilson rather than Morrissey, or a less resonant Rob Dickinson of the late Catherine Wheel. Opener "Let Me Move On" soars as much as it remains true to the jangle and sway of the shoegazer sound. Strings inform the cautious "Does He Have a Name," a song written from the viewpoint of someone in a comfortable relationship who can't help but imagine that his lover will someday leave him for someone else.
The record finds Rossiter fixated on what will inevitably, through forced introspection, crumble under the weight of his active imagination. He'll break it all to pieces, for sure, because apparently he doesn't know how to commit wholly. There are the types who fear commitment because something better might come along, but Rossiter fears commitment because a lack of conflict probably scares the hell out of him. Fans of Pulp, Suede, and, more recently, Cousteau, take note.
All this is not to say that Gene are not capable of levity. "Walking in the Shallows" is a relentlessly catchy, Shins/Maroons-like romp that has Rossiter making fun of his own obsessiveness and letting it all go long enough to create a song that ends hilariously as he throws his hands up and seems to say, "You. Tonight. Tomorrow, who cares?"
I kinda love Libertine, and until their performance at Bumbershoot, Gene will be the heroes of the damn festival as far as I'm concerned.