During the 90's I bounced around the record industry interning at a variety of record labels. This consisted mostly of taking phone messages and sorting through stacks of CD's in warehouses. I worked at different times for London Records, Maverick, Interscope and Polydor (a subsidiary of A&M). While at Polydor a London quartet by the name of GENE was signed with the hope of cashing in on the Britpop craze that had infiltrated America. The label executives called us into a room to listen the their debut record, "Olympian" which was followed by a briefing on the talking points if we dealt with the public on this record. What struck me upon listening to the record was the blatant attempt the band was making in imitating THE SMITHS but in a way that made them sound more like a Smiths cover band than being influenced by Morrisey and Marr. This fact was almost universally ignored by the upper management types instead we were told to focus on the song writing and musicianship. Needless to say every college radio person I spoke to over the next few months refused to play the record because, "I'd rather just play The Smiths".
Upon returning to the record for this series I tried to approach it as a fresh group and overlook the influence. I mean, if I could do it with OASIS, why not these guys. But it's just to hard. Martin Rossiter's vocals don't have the same melancholic moan of Morrissey but there are certain vocal intonations that are similar. Steve Mason's guitar doesn't chime the same way as Johnny Marr, but there are moments of Marr-esque picking. I imagine I could overlook these things and say, yes it is a good record. I do remember over time actually enjoying some of their songs and it appears that the band has had some success in Europe before disbanding in 2004. Of the songs, "Be My Light, Be My Guide" is a real gem mostly because it has an edge that a lot of the other songs lack. I know this isn't the most positive review but sometimes mediocrity can be enhanced by one great song. That was the case here.
(mp3) Gene -- Olympian