Originally formed in 1980 in Wales, Gene Loves Jezebel released their debut album Promise in 1983 and have an album out currently, Dance Underwater. Heavenly Bodies was originally released in 1993 and this re-issue also adds additional tracks. This album contains the groups number one US hit single Josephina and in fact collects together all three released versions of the song. Heavenly Bodies, as the original or this new re-issue, is the most Pop oriented of Gene Loves Jezebel‘s albums by what many would consider to be a Rock group and there are Rock songs here you can be assured of that.
After the straightforward standard Rock song American Dreamer, which holds no surprises, Wild Horse changes course slightly for a more punchy if nonsensical (lyrically) style. The core of the song is held down by a constant rhythm playing behind everything else, pulsing away until the chorus pushes everything into Heavy Rock territory. Wild Horse has a definite hint of early 90s Rock posturing and doesn’t seem to give a damn (still). Maybe it is something that a group starting out wish they could’ve written with its groove that doesn’t stop and doesn’t become cluttered with too many Rock clichés. This is pretty much (commercial) Rock cool on a stick. Now we have Josephina with its edgy and moody intro which transmogrifies into a confident and riff exuding chart-topper! It hasn’t lost any of its bite or smooth and glossy presence (it would be nice not to have so much reverb on the vocals though) and as the chart hit this makes it sound very much of its time but it still manages to have impact even now. Any Anxious Colour also has the sound from over twenty years: initially the solitary acoustic and ethereal synth washes are paced by the vocal for the first couple of minutes. As soon as the song gets into its stride the mood is more like a blues remake by some group like James: all very blues and folky at the same time along with gospel style backing vocals. It tries for emotional but doesn’t quite make it although it does keep the listener entertained (if they’re into this sort of thing). Sandwiched between two songs that don’t really catch fire, especially the two Rock songs (Break The Chain and In A Lonely Place) is Down. This has all the elements of chart Rock from the 90s – bouncing rhythm, catchy riffs, commercial production (reverb and delay on the vocal). It is a solid rock song performed by a group that believe in the song without crowding the space the song inhabits. Simple guitar work keeps things clean and memorable with a great build-up to the ending – end-of-show stuff. Sweet Sweet Rain comes back with a more serious and mature sound – the intro is very Pink Floyd (The Wall) – which any Heavy Rock group would not be ashamed to perform (although the guitars would be mixed higher). Even though this has plenty of clichés it shows off the ability to write a straight forward good song that relies on a simple structure and simple riffs – it is a bit of a gem. The next song, Rosary, returns to that folky sound again that some groups in the 80s and 90s popularised – mandolins and acoustic guitars in the background adding the necessary touch. It does sound dated and owes a lot to James (biggest hit being Sit Down) so that it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the album. However, the title song of the album Heavenly Bodies has that Pop edge to it – scratchy Cry Baby guitars and plenty of soft tones (Simple Minds instantly springs to mind). This is Rock for a Pop audience and even though it works well again it has that dated sound production – would it sound this way if they recorded from new now? Well, if you love late 20th century chart Rock / Pop you’ll love this song. Voice In The Dark is the final song from the original album and amazingly enough it all turns to Pop Jazz. Oh.
Of the four additional tracks (from the different single versions of Josephina) only Tomorrow’s Colours really hits the mark. A sparse and sombre acoustic number which provides a haunting counterpoint to all the commercial Rock and Pop on this re-issue. Just two acoustic guitars and vocal but the space is filled with something meaningful and it stops you in your tracks – this is a song to listen to intently to. Very much sticking out like the proverbial sore thumb it nevertheless makes an arresting change in atmosphere. There are two versions of Josephina: an alternative mix and an extended mix neither of which is better than the album version.
So now its over twenty years since the release of this album.
Style-wise this is a strange Rock album. There are the Heavy Rock (though chart orientated) songs, and then there are semi-folk Pop styled tunes. This, their sixth album, seems to show an indecision about direction when looking back and (as I’ve never been a fan) it doesn’t seem to coalesce into a distinct complete album of ideas which could be listened to in its entirety. Maybe it is because of that but as this is the expanded re-issue you are never really sure where the original album finishes and the additional tracks start (I have found out that the original album ends a track eleven). This has the effect of the listener just playing through the album and picking out the songs they like, unless they are a fan of the group in which case this will all be viewed differently. The problem is that maybe the only people who will want this are the fans from around the time when this was actually released so they can reminisce over the early 90s but maybe I could be wrong and this album (and possibly more of Gene Loves Jezebel ‘s back catalogue) will gain some new fans also.
Jay Ashton’s Gene Loves Jezebel:
Michael Ashton’s Gene Loves Jezebel:
Formed in the 80s and with a link to All About Eve, British Rock group Gene Loves Jezebel have their sixth album re-issued with additional tracks from the single versions of their number 1 US chart hit Josephina.