Jay Aston & Gene Loves Jezebel
ene still loves Jezebel, but it seems Michael may not love Jay. Such is the situation between the Aston brothers, that there could be two completely different Gene Loves Jezebel’s wandering around the globe at any given moment. The brothers are also twins. And one or both are/were fairly androgynous. Sometimes they’ve even been known to swap bands, just for fun—to see if anyone can tell the difference. I hope we’re all following this?
Actually I made up that band-swapping part. Sorry everyone.
The rest is quite true though, and neatly explains why this package is very much a presentation from the Jay side of the equation. There are no tracks here on which Michael took the lead vocal (however, he does pop up in various backing and harmony roles throughout proceedings). Naturally, then, this would suggest a slightly unbalanced scenario for something titled The Anthology. However, despite the suspicion that only one half of the story may be told, this double disc collection manages to include everything which could be considered a hit from the band’s catalogue. So much so in fact that the first CD experiences some serious crossover with the existing ‘Best Of’, Voodoo Dollies (albeit with the Michael-heavy tracks switched or removed).
Of course record companies will take any opportunity to reissue, repackage, and re-evaluate, as some bequiffed chap once said. Nor should it be a surprise, given that the Gene Loves Jezebel ‘concept’ is currently living something of a double life, that more than one compilation is available. To help sway your decision, this selection seductively waves a second disc featuring an overview of Jay Aston’s solo career and a variety of demos, acoustics, edits, and the like.
Sonically, the band exist in a curious no-man’s land. A strange and bewildering desert between recognised genres, where a perpetual near-goth twilight shines off massive hair and overly-glam stage costumes. This is especially noticeable on the opening disc, which bounces around between frantic, skittish guitars with Freudian lyrical overtones (“Upstairs”), somehow-not-quite-powerful-enough ballads (“Kiss of Life”) and slickly produced, hair metal-esque, sex ‘n more sex rock-outs (“Motion of Love”). Whilst variety is, of course, not necessarily bad—and there are still hooks aplenty and enough large choruses to go around—this is still a rather perplexing time for everyone; perhaps representing a group not unused to semi-constant flux. Doing its best to unify this identity confusion is J. Aston’s acrobatic vocal talent, adding creepy overtones, falsetto, or strange yelps as and when required. Sometimes all at once.
By the time that second disc comes around, Gene Loves Jezebel have decided they’d generally like to be quite wistful and instances of acoustic guitar use begin to perceptibly increase. There are a couple of lamentations for lost love which pop up in quick succession with winningly melodic contributions (“Love Keeps Dragging Me Down”, “When We Were One”)—the latter making excellent use of female harmonies. The rock tendencies manage to sneak a yearning little piece entitled “Break the Chain” in there, which with the escapist fantasy of “Uptown” certainly provide highlights. Of the tag-along extras, it is perhaps the alternative take on “Desire” (re-recorded with a new guitarist) which most easily justifies its own inclusion; a leaner and more forceful model compared to the original.
Indeed, to quote that very track; ‘what you get is what you see’ with this collection. The key moments appear all present and correct, even with Michael Aston seemingly airbrushed from history. Further, there’s a jolly little trip through Jay Aston’s solo output and those ever-present bonus archive tracks. Maybe you’re looking at your record-stuffed shelves and thinking ‘hmm, you know, I wish there was another band that sounded kind of like The Cult but without all that Native American baggage’. You sir or madam, are in for a treat. If not, the chances of lasting romance with either Gene or Jezebel are possibly somewhat slim. But hey, never rule out a quick fling.