“I can’t stand Gene.”
These were the first words my brother-in-law ever said to me.
As far as I can remember; it’s possible – probable even – that he said ‘hello’ or ‘I’m Andrew’ beforehand. But it’s this curt, scathing assessment of Gene that sticks in my mind.
What I am certain of is that I didn’t defend them. He was older, my sister’s new boyfriend, and already a student. At Cambridge, no less. I didn’t dare counter; I must be wrong, I surmised. If he didn’t like them, they must be rubbish.
Except they weren’t. Gene were superb. A little melancholic, perhaps – they definitely weren’t the band to put the ‘pop’ into Britpop – but they were perfect for those long and lonely nights as a teenager, sipping 50p lager from Lidl and wondering why nice girls hated you.
While some very mediocre bands got swept up by the Britpop movement, embalming them with greater recognition than their music merited, others didn’t get the appreciation they deserved. Gene are a case in point for the latter. Despite both albums hitting the top ten, they are almost always overlooked in debates about the greatest bands of the decade.
The excellent Nineties music bible ‘I Was Britpopped’ notes that they were intentionally similar in style and sound to The Smiths, and it’s possible that, in another time, their star may have burned a little brighter and they may have found fame approaching the level of their Manchester idols. They could have been kings.
And the next time I see my brother-in-law, I’ll tell him that I like Gene. I’m forty; it’s time to stand up for what I believe in.
Top three Gene tracks: