You know they've got the ambition, the vision and the parts in order - a gifted guitarist, a charismatic singer, an ability to be tough and tender at turns, and yet you're reminded of the A&R man i
You can sympathise - they've never been quite in the right place or the right time, bogged down in irrelevant comparisons and 'fop pop' misconceptions, and relatively ignored in the class of '93 once more robust, simplistic contemporaries like Oasis began defining the zeitgeist.
You'd love them to return triumphant, just because we could do with someone as irritating and funny and preposterous as Martin Rossiter being around, not to mention music with the style and grace of their early singles.
'As Good As It Gets' is the debut track and it's close, but no cigarette holder. It's just that slightly bland tinge of 1989 Aztec Camera rather than the graceful touches of before. "We've been bought, we've been sold, but at least we're not old..." Erm, good attitude, but you're not getting any younger, eh kiddo?
On the plus side, Rossiter has toned down that becoming-cringesome vibrato of the last album. His lyrics are more passionate, more angry, but somehow not as incisive as they have been. The sense of defiance is tinged with bitterness, while polemics like 'Mayday', attacking the likes of Mandelson and "the new enemy", and talking of Bevan "spinning in his grave" and "the right must be denied" just sounds clumsy.
You know they've got the ambition, the vision and the parts in order - a gifted guitarist, a charismatic singer, an ability to be tough and tender at turns, and yet you're reminded of the A&R man in a recent NME who reflected that rock bands should employ songwriters. Because when you get through a 13-track album and can remember only one or two of the tunes, no amount of stylish swagger will disguise the fact.
There's still glimpses of what they've always promised. 'Fill Her Up' has a Suede-ish atmosphere of gutter romance, and is lifted out of the generic guitar pop mire found elsewhere by a strangely haunting chant in the background. 'Something In The Water' isn't bad, due to a slow-burning sense of mourning and melancholy. But elsewhere there's upbeat late-Jam style bluster, paper epics and superfluous piano and brass adornments. Not to mention the born-again-hardman Rossiter's lyrics such as, "Your face is my paper, a Stanley my pen". Still trying just a little too hard, then.
At which point you're forced to conclude that this probably is as good as it's going to get for Gene. And as for 'Revelations', well, pretty thin on the ground.
To read all our reviews first - days before they appear online - check out NME magazine, on sale every Wednesday