By Andrew Gilhooley / 411
From glamorous Gothic rockers to sensitive acoustic musicians and back again, Gene Loves Jezebel is a band with a long and often turbulent history.
Originally formed as Slav Aryan in the late 1970s by twin brothers Michael and Jay Aston, the band began its career as an opening act for punk bands in its native Wales. On moving to London, Slav Aryan became Gene Loves Jezebel after a chance comment by a friend and gained public recognition at a Rock Week festival at the Institute of Contemporary Arts.
A four-track E.P. titled “Shaving My Neck” was named single of the week in the UK’s Melody Maker magazine, and Gene Loves Jezebel was on its way to becoming one of the influential new wave of ’80s alternative rock bands. With their striking, androgynous looks and dark, sensuous music, the band members established a loyal audience among London’s Goth scene and enjoyed chart success on both sides of the Atlantic with songs such as “Desire” and “Jealous.”
Personnel-wise, the band did not have such an easy time, going through several line-up changes culminating in Michael Aston parting company with the rest of the band in 1989 to pursue a solo career.
From that point on, the history of Gene Loves Jezebel becomes a little complicated. Michael rejoined and left, the band broke up and reformed, and eventually became two bands, each called Gene Loves Jezebel and featuring one of the Aston twins. Both bands are currently touring and releasing albums.
Michael Aston’s incarnation of Gene Loves Jezebel plays at Blue Fin Billiards on Friday evening, and the audience can expect a mixture of material from all stages of the band’s career and various line-ups. Aston is clearly keen to avoid the temptation to concentrate solely on the band’s back catalog.
“I’ve gone out of my way to avoid being trapped in a retro thing,” he said. Instead, the band has reworked the arrangements of the older songs to give them a new sound. The new material shows a development of the band’s style in addition to a return to the original philosophy of passionate, searching music, which Aston feels was lost toward the end of Gene Loves Jezebel’s original run.
“I think I’m becoming even more experimental,” he said. “I very much believe in the lyric, the word and the importance of manifesting something emotionally”
The band’s latest album, “Giving Up The Ghost,” was released last year., The new Gene Loves Jezebel is a classic four-piece, featuring guitar, bass and drums as support to Aston’s vocals.
The musicians provide an exceptionally tight backing, making effective use of delay and other digital effects to create a swirling wash of sound over a pounding rock beat. The music combines all the emotional intensity of old with some intriguing and exciting new directions, and Friday should be a highly enjoyable night for all alternative rock fans.
In Michael Aston’s own words: “For me, music is pleasure. My goals beyond that are no more.”
In Gene Loves Jezebel, he is certainly achieving his goal.
First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, May 2, 2002
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