GENE Olympian (Costermonger)

What sad times are these when criminally overrated no-marks like Elastica can pillage freely from just about anybody who recorded anything in 1977, yet Gene get castigated by the press for being open and honest about liking a particular mid-80s Mancunian beat combo who shall remain nameless in the interest of fair and balanced reviewing, especially after making an album as downright wonderful as "Olympian".

Maybe it was due to previously hearing their blistering live set during Radio 1’s recent Sound City shenanigans (I was waiting for the Orb, honestly officer), but Gene really are good. They write gorgeously mellow songs with real tunes and insightful, humorous, only slightly coded lyrics, that bring to mind (apart from the obvious) Suede’s first few singles, especially on the crashing album highlight and recent single "Sleep Well Tonight", whilst the spirit of M@rrissŁy’s long-forgotten career peak "Kill Uncle" is evoked on the jaunty "Still Can’t Find The Phone". Steve Mason’s mature guitar playing, part J$hnny M&rr, part Bernard Butler, amazes throughout, as do little touches like the string arrangement towards the end of the towering title track. And if Martin Rossiter’s lyrics are a bit low on quotable quotes, it’s only because the beauty of his writing can’t be compressed into graffiti-friendly phrases. A great album, and a must-hear for legions of disaffected Smiths fans. Oops, what a giveaway...

GENE Drawn To The Deep End (Polydor)

Why should Gene matter to anyone? After all, they’ve been written off as second-rate Smiths copyists since long before their first, sporadically brilliant, album "Olympian", only to compound the problem by following it with a collection of b-sides, Radio 1 sessions, non-album singles and live tracks before anyone could say "Hatful Of Hollow". Then there’s Martin Rossiter’s clearly heartfelt but equally clearly ridiculous interview ramblings centred on how Gene, the finest band of this generation, are privileged to count amongst their members the finest songwriter of this generation, as in, er, him.

Gene should matter, to some people at least, because in a world devoid of first-rate Smiths copyists the second-rate Smiths copyists should be kings. And, for their many faults, Rossiter is not so absorbed in wallowing in his alleged depression to dispatch the odd half-good bejewelled nugget of tainted optimism, for example "Where Are They Now?", "Speak To Me Someone", "Why I Was Born", "Long Sleeves For The Summer" and "Save Me, I’m Yours", which form the emotional core of "Drawn To The Deep End". Added to which, Steve Mason is probably the most delicate guitarist to ever not be a Cocteau Twin.

What Gene could happily lose, however, is the bombastic sub-Floyd pomp that constitutes the opening track "New Amusements", and the uncharacteristically boneheaded bravado that plagues the singles "Fighting Fit" and to a lesser extent "We Could Be Kings". And there’s nothing on here that’s makes for as downright perfect a soundtrack for the downtrodden as their majestic "Sleep Well Tonight", surely destined to be the high watermark of Gene’s career, at least in their present incarnation. "Drawn To The Deep End" is emphatically not the terrific second album Gene so desperately needed to silence the doubters, but it has enough moments of understated loveliness to suggest that their time has yet to arrive.