Like so much of Gene's fine back catalogue, this is an album about the ways in which love can buckle you under and life can break you down.
Resilient, robust, reliable – all great words for describing new garden furniture or a pair of winter shoes, traditionally less appropriate for rock’n’roll. While the title of Gene’s post-major-label album hints at a self-consciouly arch adoption of Bohemia, it quickly becomes clear that ‘Libertine’ has little to do with uninhibited frolicking. Like so much of Gene’s fine back catalogue, this is an album about the ways in which love can buckle you under and life can break you down, options closing in like the walls of an Indiana Jones dungeon. In other words, it’s an album about emotional resilience and it’s very strong indeed.
Starting with betrayal in the epic-in-all-the-right-ways ‘Does He Have a Name?’, the band are soon pitching through the downward spiral guitars of ‘A Simple Request’ – “Tell me when will life start happening for me?” sings Martin Rossiter affectingly – or the charming, demanding angst of ‘O Lover’.Gene’s songs have often matched toughness with vulnerability – the butch guitars and melancholy tunes, the way Rossiter’s voice fluctuates between the emotional pugilist and the world-weary fop – and it’s a powerful dynamic that makes their status as survivors not pitiable but a fierce artistic statement. Sometimes, freedom can be found in the strangest circumstances.