Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel ‘Dance Underwater’ Review: veteran alternative rockers return with first album of new material in 20 years.
After a successful Pledge Music campaign, Gene Loves Jezebel (known as Jay Aston’s Gene Loves Jezebel in the U.S.)have emerged with Dance Underwater (out June 30th via Westworld Records) the group’s first album of new material since 1997’s VII.
Gene Loves Jezebel were one of the most unique rock acts of the 80’s, fusing a mix of angular goth and 70’s glam for a sound that sounded like no one else, rising to fame thanks to their hit Desire off their 1985 album Discover, and going on to further acclaim with 1987’s House of Dolls, fueled by the hit singles The Motion of Love and Suspicion.
That album was produced by Peter Walsh, one of the top producers of the 80’s, known for his lush work on albums like The Church’s Heyday, Simple Mind’s New Gold Dream and Pulp’s We Love Life.
Walsh returns to the fold for Dance Underwater, along with band-members James Stevenson (guitar), Peter Rizzo (bass) and Chris Bell (drums), all of whom played on Dolls (one Dolls alumnus not returning: Aston’s twin brother Michael, who left the band in 1989 and now performs under the Gene Loves Jezebel name in the U.S. It’s a bit complicated).
It should be noted that while the band have reconvened with Walsh, Dance Underwater is no House of Dolls 2.0. It’s not an album mired in 80’s nostalgia–it showcases all the band’s musical experience they’ve acquired 30 years since, or as Aston said in our interview earlier this year: there’s a brand new palette you know?
This is clear from the start: opener Charmed Life (Never Give In) features a lively melody backed by synthwave textures and Aston’s auto-tuned vocals.
Summertime, the album’s first single, is a spritely pop number perfectly encapsulating the season: sun-dappled strummed guitar and cooing vocals that makes for the ideal tune for a road trip on a balmy day. Indeed, the album has a tropical, warm feeling, extending to the loungey, tranquil Flying and the thrumming, psychedelic Chase The Sun, featuring a killer dub-bassline from Rizzo.
The band stretch their sound into new and surprising angles: Ain’t it Enough is a pastoral country ballad showcasing Aston’s soaring pipes, while How Do You Say Goodbye (to Someone You Love) is widescreen melodrama in the best sense, featuring a string arrangement by David Bowie producer Tony Visconti.
IZITME is my personal favorite, featuring a knotted, satisfying wah-wah soaked riff from Stevenson, and an anthemic earworm of a chorus–akin to the hypnotic Heavenly Body off the group’s 1993 album Heavenly Bodies.
World Gone Crazy’s title suggests a snapshot of our perilous present, but the song is an upbeat, dancey rocker, full of lusty lyrics and a disco beat–punctuated by one of Aston’s patented “kuh’s!” (longtime fans will know what I’m talking about).
In many ways, Dance Underwater’s sunny, upbeat disposition cleaves it from the band’s harsher and darker origins, but there are a few moments of that hazy, autumnal atmosphere, particularly on the strident Cry 4 U, the most old-school inclusion, and closing number I Don’t Want To Dance Underwater, which blends in swirling textures over bluesy chords and strummed acoustic guitars.
The album’s relaxed sonics suggests an album made by good friends who truly enjoy each other’s company. It’s a labor of love funded by their fanbase (who are surely pleased with their investment), and feel-good vibes abound.
Dance Underwater is a real treat for longtime fans, who’ve waited 20 years for new GLJ tunes. But their updated sound also opens the door for a whole new generation of fans to dive in and dance in the waves.
Purchase ‘Dance Underwater’ on Amazon: