Issue 230 of SOCIALIST REVIEW Published May 1999 Copyright © Socialist Review
Always aloof and melancholic, this wayward band has reached new depths of disillusionment--but this time it's political. Littered with anti-Labour lyrics, Revelations signals Gene's final departure from Cool Britannia, and from support for the Labour Party.
Revelations lacks the lustre and direction of Gene's earlier albums. The sound and the soul of the music do not have the defiant depression, the boisterous femininity or verve which marked this band out as more than the new Smiths. This artistic quagmire in which Martin Rossiter et al find themselves in is created by a disheartenment with the New Labour project. The band's attitude was always one of being on the margins, homoerotic yet heterosexual, boyish but defiantly anti-laddish and so their unequivocal support for the Labour Party was out of character.
The band decided to stand up and be counted, lending its voice to the Rock The Vote album. Like so many, this activity was built upon the genuine belief that ousting the Conservatives would usher in a new era of equality and prosperity.
The latest album shows that the members of Gene got their fingers burnt. And so they now sing, 'When red becomes blue/Hopes denied/Our dreams swept away with the tide'. This first song, 'As Good As It Gets', also hints that the band has become involved with a movement evolving amongst pop musicians which is defiantly against the new government.
The core complaint about recent legislation is the attack on the unemployed and the introduction of the New Deal. The New Musical Express featured a spread which showed that many of the best British bands, like Pulp, were formed and formulated while players were on the 'rock 'n' dole'. The chorus rings, 'People want to work/Not fester in the dirt/People have to work'. 'As Good As It Gets', as the title suggests, is a rebuff to Labour's adopted theme tune 'Things Can Only Get Better', but not one that points to an alternative.
The centrepiece of this stance against the Labour Party is the song 'Mayday': 'Now Bevan spins round in his grave/There's no love left in the left/We're guilty as charged/The party is close to death/Slowly moving west'. Amongst the love songs lie scattered references to this new political wasteland. The words, 'The rich must be denied', 'The right must be denied', echo here. Like so many people, Gene has become absolutely despondent with New Labour and feels utterly betrayed.
For Gene, as for many people, this has not resulted in an automatic shift to revolutionary politics. Instead it has created a mood of helplessness and directionlessness. Thus the first lines of this album ring, 'Be careful in life and you will see/The greedy live off you and me/This is the code, we can't break history'.
What Marxism offers is an ideology and a methodology which can break this history, which can give confidence and life back to all those disenfranchised by Labour. This album--which is still far better than most of the banal trite the music industry generates--would be far better if it had at its heart a genuine hope, a self confidence and a will to win which revolutionary ideas give.
Gene has charted the territory so many on the left have travelled. Disenchantment with New Britain has reached even those who enjoy the wealth of artistic success, but still hanker for a decent society. The actions of the present Labour government have been a series of bitter revelations for reformists.