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Album Review

If bands like Siouxsie and the Banshees and Bauhaus can be considered the founders of post-punk glam, laying the foundations of what would turn into goth rock, then Gene Loves Jezebel followed closely in their footsteps with the debut, Promise. Careening, wailing guitar is matched by careening, wailing vocals from the two brothers, while forceful, semi-tribal drumming underlay everything on display. John Brand's production balances out brute force with careful texturing, allowing the group to showcase their power chops as well as their calmer, moodier side. Despite the unstable lineup at the time of recording, everything sounds like the product of a well-seasoned band, no doubt thanks to the Astons' considerable and happily justifiable belief in their own abilities. One of the more common but effective elements on Promise is a sense of quick, dramatic changes. Strong examples include the moody intro into explosive guitar roar on "Upstairs," the building roll of verses into a wordless yell on "Screaming for Emmalene/Scheming," and the sudden drop out of the music towards the end of "Psychological Problems." The Astons' near-interchangeable vocals conjure up images of desolation, highly suspect sex, freakish family scenarios, and insanity; theirs are not the most happy-go-lucky of lyrics, but they deliver them with an invigorating, about-to-crack energy. Songs often crackle with a nervous, giddy fear, while the music at its more restrained feels like an ominous call to doom. "Influenza," a deceptively calm instrumental, relies on wordless vocals from the band to increase the creeping sense of unease. Perhaps the strongest song is the most minimal: "Bread From Heaven," an allegoric, vicious slam on the English government for its treatment of Wales. The Astons' keening vocals sound like burnt calls of vengeance from beyond the grave — an unsettling, effective demonstration of their musical skills. Later pressings of the album include the fairly poppy later single "Bruises," which also surfaces on Immigrant.


Formed: 1981 in Porthcawl, Wales

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Twin brothers Jay and Michael Aston began playing music in 1980 when they formed Slav Arian with guitarist Ian Hudson and a drum machine. Though the Astons grew up in Porthcawl, South Wales, they moved to London in 1981 and renamed the goth-influenced group Gene Loves Jezebel. The trio played several live shows and were quickly signed by Situation 2. In May 1982, the label released Gene Loves Jezebel's demo single, "Shavin' My Neck." The band then added bassist Julianne Regan and drummer Dick Hawkins....
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Promise, Gene Loves Jezebel
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