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October 18, 1995 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1995-10-18

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October 18 1995
Genefind their way to the BlindPig]I

By Thomas Crowley
Daily Arts Writer
So many bands sailing in on the New
Wave of New Wave. So many different
styles. So many different ideas about
"How to crack America?" which has be-
come the $64 thousand question for
Britpopbandsandanglophilesinthe'90s.
Some have tried to do it with a single siege
(Suede), others with sneak-attacks (Pri-,
mal Scream's original strategy for seeing
that their single "Rocks" hit big: Mass
distributionstothoseworkinginthetruck-
ing industry).
No one has succeeded -not entirely.
Some have written off the States as a lost
cause, ahopelessslavetothehome-grown
swill that has deplorably hadthe attention
ofthe American majority for years, refus-
ing to let go. And then some make no
bones about their wish to crack America,
confident that it is a goal which can actu-
ally be accomplished, but accepting of
the task's difficulty. Gene is such a band.
"Oh, it's very important to us," says
Matt James, drummer for the London
foursome, "I mean, what happens in
England is that people tend to dangle
this carrot in front of you and they
always say,'Break America and you'll
never have to work again.' But I think
that's the wrong reason to write songs
and to do it just so you can never work
again is ridiculous." Matt sets the record
on selling records straight: "You've got
to do it because you enjoy songwriting
and that's what we want to be -- we
want to be great songwriters and I think
we're getting better at it all the time."
Gene are in it for the "long haul" as
the skins-man puts it, and are willing to
put their whole heart and soul into their

efforts, with the desire to get their songs
to as many people as possible. Admi-
rable, seeing as how Gene's career got
off on a conveniently speedy start. "We
only played about seven or eight shows
where there were two people there,"
explains James, "then people picked up
on it quickly, and we've been playing to
a lot ofpeople from quite early on in our
career, which meant we had to sort of
grow up in public a little bit, but it's
worked for us in the end."
Worked it has; the band's two-year
performance history hit a new peak this
past summer when they played the infa-
mous Glastonbury music festival for an
audience of several hundred thousand.
Still, notoriety in Britain does not al-
waysnecessitate notoriety abroad. Like
many other English bands, Gene have
receivedlittle airplay in North America,
and have gone from playing large ven-
ues across the pond, to small clubs like
Ann Arbor's own Blind Pig. Even so,
Gene do not find such a drastic transi-
tion disheartening. "I really enjoy do-
ing those show again," says James, "It
keeps you on your toes. And it's not
easy to do those shows because the
sound is never as good as in the bigger
venues... there's a good vibe in those
(smaller) venues anyway."
Formed three years ago from the frag-
ments of a group called Spin, Gene's
genesis triggered when James, guitarist
Steve Mason, and bassist Kevin Miles--

desperate to find a front-man for their
band-approached the chain-smoking,
raspy-timbred Martin Rossiterin a Lon-
don club, "Thought he looked cool and
asked him if he could sing ... a fateful
experience really!" says James. Gene
spent a year in Mason's bedroom hon-
ing their sound: A blend of Faces-style
blues licks and start-and-stop/slow-
down-speed-up pop elasticity. "I think
when we wrote 'For the Dead', which
was our first single, we scrapped all the
songs we'd written before that and said
'This is a really good song and we have
to have that as a standard,"'says James,
"When we wrote that song we knew we
had stumbled on something good, re-
ally soulful and quite contemporary as
well." Something good indeed. Pianos,
hammond organs and strings mediate
between the band's fusion of energetic
Stones and Who rockisms and warmer
Motown soul.
Rossiter's lyrics have as much range
as their music really; the aforemen-
tioned "For the Dead" is a consolation/
identification to/with the despairing -
pardon the pun - at the end of their
ropes. "Left-Handed" is an anthem to
accompany one's exodus from the
closet, "London, Can You Wait?" ex-
presses the emotional anguish with
which one who has lost a friend must
cope, "Sleep Well Tonight" is written
from the perspective of a blood-thirsty
knave hungry for mob-violence and
"Olympian" relates the details of aneu-
rotic infatuation.
With a tendency to overdo criticism,
many in the British music press, while
praising Gene for their obvious talent,
criticized the similarities between Martin

Which one's your favorite: witty Martin, sensitive Steve, worldly Matt or happy-go-lucky Kevin?

Rossiter and Steven Morrissey's lyrical
versatility and vocal delivery, declaring
Gene acarbon-copyofthe Smiths. While
one can find trace elements ofthe Smiths
in Gene's tunes, the differences between
the two bands are arguably much greater
than the resemblances.
Speaking of the media's preoccupa-
tion with the bands' similarities, James
says "It's beginning to die down now,
the Smiths thing... it did start to weigh
us down because we felt we had proved
ourselves so many times and that it was
so obvious that there was a lot more the

band than one member being influ-
enced by the Smiths."
James is confident that Gene's resil-
ience will quell the media's accusations
of mimicry: "I think as long as we're
still around, people won't be able to
write the same things about us. So if
we're still aroundnext year andtheyear
after, they can't keep saying 'Gene are
the Smiths' or whatever, because there
has to be something else they can say.
And it happens to a lot of bands in their
early years: REM were accused of be-
ing hippies and psychedelic, and Suede

had the Bowie thing. It happens toalot.
of bands and you just have to be big
enough to get through it."
"There is no turn of phraseno easy
way tosay/'I'll findmy feet/I'll choose
my own name."' Their solid singles
and debut album are perhaps the most
manifest indications that they Gene
have chosen their name, found their
feet and are in the process of assuming
the posture of the Herculean figure
featured in the title track. Chances are
very good that they'll find their own
way.

As You Like It' reruns the '50s
New interpretation inspired by classic TV

By Paul Spiteri
For the Daily
This marks the last week to catch
Ann Arbor Civic Theater's produc-
tion of "As You Like It," and if you
like Shakespeare with a twist, make
sure you catch it. For all you purists,
don't worry, the lines written nearly
400 years ago make it into this pro-
duction unscathed. Only one differ-
ence marks this performance, directed
by Anne Kolaczkowski Magee, and
other more reserved examples of this
comedy you might have seen - all
the characters look and act like they've
escaped from reruns of old TV reruns.
The inspiration for this artistic leap
of interpretation came to Magee when,
she says (in her director's note): "I
was surprised to find how quickly I
could imagine an alternative world
forsome of Shakespeare's most comic
characters ... The carefree, youthful
spirit of this play brought early rock
'n' roll to mind."
This 1950s and early '60s transla-
tion acts like some mad casting agency
that gives all the parts to sitcom ac-
tors. Each actor, though he or she
spoke in the all too familiar iambic
pentameter of Shakespeare, gestured
and dressed and even looked like
Gidget's gang or regulars at Al's from
"Happy Days." The royal court of
Duke Frederick became a country
club; the Forest of Arden became a
camping ground. All in all, the more
contemporary feel succeeded in giv-
ing the production another level to
entertain and keep the action clear in
the sometimes slow pacing of the
script.
Adam L. Smith opened the play
with a golf club and a cable knit
sweater, translating the role of Or-
lando into a preppy poster child whose
naive idealism leads him into trouble.
Looking like a slightly upset Richie
Cunnigham, I kept expecting "listen
here bucko" to work into at least one
scene. Smith held up many of the
scenes that depended on his
performance's believability, and held
his own against many of the other
more colorful characters in the play.
Speaking of colorful, one actor cap-
tred the most undue attention with
his hilarious antics, all to the laughter
of the audience - Tim Henning. En-
tering the stage no less than three
imes as Charles, Sir Oliver Martext
and Hymen, Henning stole the spot-
light with his exaggerated character-
izations of a jock, a preacher and a

As You Like ft
Ann Arbor Civic Theater
(2275 Platt Road)
Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m.
Tickets: $9. Call 971-AACT.
rock-star, respectively. The wrestling
scene between Henning and Smith (Or-
lando)_alone compensated for the price
of admission.
Shelley Ray (as Celia), Tim Morley
(as Adam) and Robin Barlow (as Jaques)
all gave performances which stood out
even within a excellent cast.
Perhaps the best performance, how-
ever, came from newcomer Suzanne
Keith Col6n, whose performance as
Rosalind brought out all the facets of
the difficult part onto the stage. Col6n
created not only a vibrant Rosalind,but
kept pace with the character's ruse as a
man which later lapses back into a
woman. Perhaps some of the most
memorable scenes came between Col6n
and Ray (Celia), two privileged but
spirited teenage girls dedicated to never
being dominated by either fathers or
spouses - think of it as "Laverne and
Shirley" do Shakespeare.
A review of this production would
not be complete without a word on the
music. The scenes in Arden, which I
must admit Igrimaced through in other
productions, come alive in the simple
rock beats of this play. So, even if you
don't care much for a well-acted play,
not badly written, and filled with his-
torical and revealing lines, at least it
will leave you with a song in your head.

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