Rising from the ashes of punk South Wales brothers fused their vision of punk with gothic rock (influenced by Bowie, Reid and Iggy no doubt). Eventually they embraced American 80s radio-friendly rock. The band danced in and out of the shadows with fleeting moments of recognition from the mainstream with some hits on the charts. From the cold dark Goth roots the band fractured and had very public break ups that are visible to this day with the crazy scene of there being two versions of the band on either side of the Atlantic but the whys and wherefores of that debate might be for others,I’m here to focus on this new album and the music of Jay Aston, James Stevenson and Peter Rizzo. To be fair the trio have dished up some wonderful music on both 2017s ‘Dance Underwater’ capturing their sound perfectly from the roots of Rock and Goth and their mash up of what they’ve stood for for decades. That was 2017 so fast forward a pandemic and into the here and now and the brand new record ‘X’.
Twelve new songs, well, when I say new songs some are certainly not new songs but that will become apparent. If you’re familiar with the band and the sound they’ve turned out for many years will be up to speed with what to expect and this record doesn’t disappoint. When I say it sounds like classic Jezabel you’ll know. Its got an often lush, dreamy smooth feel with plenty of space in the music where the scene is made with broad strokes that deliver a big well rounded sound with excellent production and well-constructed songs that are played immaculatly.
The album begins with the mid-tempo ‘The Man That Time Forgot’ with its reverb dripping guitar chimes and driving bass line and Ashton’s distinguishable vocal delivery, sounding as strong as it did when they first started making records. The song flows nicely with lots going on from swirling keys to hypnotic drum beats and a wall of Stevenson guitar. One that will certainly sit nicely with long-term fans. A romantic charm and something is comforting about the pace of this album. Sure it’s safe and often warm but sometimes that’s exactly what an album needs, nothing risky or groundbreaking just doing what you do and doing it really well.
The one thing that most intrigued me about this album was it contained five cover songs including the Cures ‘In Between Days’ Edwin Collins ‘A Girl Like You’ Marianne Faithfuls ‘Broken English’ Magazines ‘The Light Pours Out Of Me’ and closing the record with the mighty Only Ones ‘Another Girl Another Planet’. What they have done here is treat the originals with respect but, they haven’t just regurgitated them with tribute-like versions instead take The Only Ones ‘Another Girl’ for example, they’ve not gone for a straight mirror version nor have they tried to be clever they’ve slowed it down and given it a ballad like treatment that has taken ownership of the song and with Jays unique vocal owned it and moved it in another direction that is engaging and enjoyable which isn’t something that’s always easy to do.
Anyway, Back into the thick of this new album the sprawling Goth rocker that is ‘Serpent Queen’ is an uptempo chest-beating rocker that brings to the fore the vital elements that made you fall in love with Gene Loves Jezebel in the first place.
Of the gentler songs on offer the atmospheric ‘Breathe Easy’ is acoustic guitars and synths painting a starry picture glued together with some great vocals to showcase James dreamy guitar breaks. The album is heavily leaning in the direction of the more Balladlike material that will take plenty of plays to fully appreciate but on initial plays, I’m impressed by the songs they’ve written and the covers they’ve reconstructed in what is a most welcome Gene Loves Jezabel record especially impressed with ‘You Can”t Hurt Me Anymore’ and the mid-tempo ‘Lone Rider’. Diolch yn fawr iawn Jay and band I’m always happy to add a new Gene Loves Jezabel album to my collection especially when it’s this good.
Author: Dom Daley