Saturday, November 05, 2011

Flash Metal Suicide: Gene Loves Jezebel

Gene Loves Jezebel
Kiss of Life 
1989, Warner Brothers 

"It's Lonesome here-there's no one left to torture"
- L .Cohen 

Not even that many all-too-grown-up-now CHICKS will own up to having once been ardently enthusiastic fans of Gene Loves Jezebel, at this point - but me, I'm already on public record as a shameless, diehard fan of everything from Dead Or Alive to Dexy's Midnite Runners, so here goes my scarve-y stroll down memory lane once again. 'First time I remember hearin' about the Jezzers was in NYC in '85 or so, back when they looked like Haysi Fantaysi, or Strawberry Switchblade, or early Culture Club on all their Jackson Pollack influenced album covers for "Promise", and "Bruises", and "Immigrant". One of the Aston twins looked just like Nina Hagen, and the other, like Lene Lovitch in that old "Don't Kill The Animals" video. All the creamy white, witchy chicks redolent of incense oils and patchouli, whom I wanted to sleep with, were digging stuff like Fra Lippo Lippi, the Cocteau Twins, Current 93, "Everyday Is Halloween"-era Ministry, Soft Cell, Echo & The Bunnymen, and Gene Loves Jezebel. Being something of a multiple rosaries wearing, showy, enfant terrible myself, I was remarkably appreciative of all this sensual, tribalesque gypsy rock coming out of the post-punk, goth, and new romantic subcultures, that was all coalescing in all those chilly, painfully loud, pitch dark nightclubs full of provocatively attired, dysfunctional gloomsters, who all convened to revel in their symbolic otherness-in a permissive atmosphere of enticingly gauzy somnolence, and droning drum machines.

Of course, I had no way of knowing the psychic toll of getting involved with a long series of melodramatic, self immolating tragediennes would eventually take on my frail little conscience someday, but back then, they were always irresistible to me- in spite of their cutting, and groupie-ing, and non-stop reenacting of childhood traumas, that invariably accompanied each of these poisonous relationships. "Love can be like bondage, seduce me once again..." (-S.Bator)

Why does the Jack Daniels soused, longhaired glam punk singer sleep with all these morbid and manipulative, violent and morose goth chicks? Because he can? I didn't know what I was getting in to. "All my witches come true/weee-ooo..." (-R.Hell)

By the time that noted Jim Thirwell-plagiarist, Trent Reznor was rewriting old WASP songs for the death scene, I was already turning alot of these smacked-out, black velvet wearing little seductresses away. They were very nearly exhausting me both physically, and emotionally, and I was just never that healthy to begin with. Some of these broads were so hot that even the other chicks wanted 'em! All the most gorgeous girls in the world were ending up in some presidential suite frolic with one or both of the Jezebels or their sidemen. This band attracted INXS or Duran quality models to their gigs. It was crazy. While I was usually extremely jealous of whatever band the girls I liked were pursuing, I was just never that threatened by these ponces in GLJ! I guess because they seemed so whacked, with the whole weird incestuous vibe, like these asexual, harmlessly euro-queer water sprites or something - they sure did sing like banshees! It was psychedelic dance music, sorta like the Southern Death Cult, or even the Cult's "Love", or the Mission. Everybody went there to dance and glimmer, posing pursed lipped in too much blue eyeshadow in our crucifixes and sleeveless fishnet, and hopefully, make a new friend for the evening.

"We were presumptuous to assume this magic would continue." (-Lee Radziwell)

One would think that the pasty, promiscuous teens of today are still probably ritualistically acting-out all these age-old rites of passage at My Chemical Romance shows, or Korn, or whoever, but I've gotten too psychologically wan to wanna pay a cover charge to lurk around like some creepy older Kim Fowley perv, living vicariously through the young people's sexual energies. There were many years when niteclubs were what I lived for, but nowadays you couldn't drag me to one if you bribed. I hate the techno, the piercings, the industrial metal, the infusion of rap, and being the old guy.

Back in my day, the Astons looked like Patricia Fields dragqueens, or Stephen Sprouse models. They were these faggy twin wisps who danced in their peculiar, flowing pajama'd fairy circles, pre-"Vogue", striking poses, and doing all these laughable, Fat-Elvis karate kicks, accentuated by their elveish battlecry of "JHU! JHU!" They were big, big stars in the 80's - no shit, kids. I have no idea how it happened*, but a generation of girls liked their neutered John Taylor good looks. They sold out concerts, had hit records, were caustic in interviews, and enjoyed massive MTV rotation!

All with their androgynous, shrieking sorcerers from Middle-Earth plastic mysticism shtick. Hilarious! Simply imagine Kate Bush as a boy, twice!

Two fey, sibling rivals in Jean-Paul Gaultier Chinese housecoats and gold lame' genie pants, lushly rhapsodizing about some waifish sylph's dark, moon-lit allure SEEMED like Roxy Music to alot of us panda eyed modern romantics back in 1986! What can I tell ya? The truth ain't nothin' but the truth. We were young and naive. I was dating (well, ok, more than one, really...) a lass insane, and anytime I did something she didn't like, she'd either: slash herself some more and end up in the emergency room, sleep with some older, more famous, silk and satin clad goth star who tied pieces of colored tissue paper in his hair, cast spells on my heavy metal girlfriends, or write me these lyrical, life threatening poetic notes in her cryptic scrawl, quoting Lydia Lunch or Diamanda Galas, or, all of the above! It got to be a bit much, and she felt much the same about me, so we both moved on to our next unfortunate partners. About every 3-5 years, I still tend to get spellbound by some new tortured siren's song, and ceaselessly continue to put myself through this nigh-impossible "relationship" gauntlet like I'm IMPRISONED in one of those damned New Order lyrics.
Addiction? Masochism? Sadism? Abandonment Issues? Chronic Depression? Immobilizing poverty? ALL THIS AND MORE LITTLE GIRL! "Your beauty has spoken with eyes that shine, my resistance crumbles, I stumble, I fall-did I ever fail you? Did I lose your confidence? To me you are remarkable-what more can I say?

These often abrasive Welsh warblers yelped all their high pitched, indian war-whoops, taking turns murmuring into the mic all these faintly Crowley-an lyrics in their keening, nasally, exotic whines about how MYSTICALit would be if all the young American goth chicks would immediately join them for an after show menage cinco in their candle-lit presidential suites: "So pack up your ribbons and get out your pearls and go along with me, I'll see you there - where the dark clouds meet - I'll meet you where our hearts can beat..." Their druggy, early sound reminded people of old Adam & The Ants, old U2, Specimen, Public Image Ltd., Siouxsie & The Banshees, and the Virgin Prunes. The "Thin Things" as the Astons liked being called, were highly INSULTEDwhenever critics compared them to Lydon or Siouxsie, or any of their Star Hits Magazine contemporaries, fancying themselves these profoundly BYRONESQUE alchemists without peer! What a larf! One critic compared their vocal stylings to Yoko Ono! All the older stuff is really well produced British goth, ala Spear Of Destiny, Southern Death Cult, and occasionally even Sisters. I particularly always dug, "Worth Waiting For". These songs all meant so much to us back when they were accompanying our first, formative stabs at courtship, rebellion, and self-reinvention. It's easy to see how these nauseatingly pompous, screeching twin wailers in their red and gold Ziggy Stardust tunics and skintight black leggings emphasizing their girlish, anorexic frames made all our more macho friends' skin crawl. My AC/DC pals were APPALLED I was indulging in all this make-up wearing neww romanticism, but it was clear that they were also begrudgingly, a bit envious, of the fringe benefits of new wave's erotic gothly revelries. "If a little bit of heartache, a little bit of heartache never hurt anyone-how come I'm crying over you" captured the pouty zeitgeist for all us little gothniks.

Deep down, I was still a bleeding heart forever pining for that one specifically unobtainable SMITHS fan and alla GLJ's colorful, lusty yearnings made complete sense to me back when my black heart beat fast in nagging anticipation of even glimpsing her comely, ethereal visage. The fact that these pretentious mime headhunters and all their Shelley-an shrieking seemed so excruciatingly otherworldly was their whole appeal. By the time "Desire" was dominating the airwaves worldwide, most every arty, young fox on the run was totally in-synch with their gay witchdoctor, neverland mystique, they were all dyeing their hair a Laupereque hue and wearing weird bells around their ankles and shit and it was all a gas, really.

James Stevenson from Chelsea, Generation X, and Glen Matlock's band joined GLJ on guitar, and drummer Chris Bell (not the Big Star guy - but former stickman for Thompson Twins, Specimen, and Spear Of Destiny) was also added to their bigtime American tour line-ip and "The Sweetest Thing" was the sonic wallpaper for many a memorable  makeout session with many adolescent Elviras in their blackened bedrooms. That album with it's annoyingly ubiquitous "Heartache", was on everyone but the most committed Metallica fan's turntables that year, bleeding into many a tough guy punk rocker, or flash metal junkie's glam rock playlists. That's still the one to own if I had to pick one. "Discover", their crassly commercial follow-up, was marred by it's high-gloss, radio-friendly, umm...Pepsi Sheen. "House Of Dolls" was smartly tailored to mainstream rock radio appealing to people who dug shit like the Power Station and Andy Taylor's "Thunder" and even I had to admit they were really starting to suck ass by the end of '87. Trite, watered down rewrites of all their vintage classics stripped of the bizarre parts that made any of it worthwhile to begin with, like "Motion Of Love" and "Suspicion" signaled their rapid decline.

The blonder brother, Michael Aston, quit the band in a fit of artistic fervor. Heartened by all the press he was reading that compared his lips to Jagger or Tyler back then, redheaded Jay overconfidently preened-on for awhile, notching one last ghost of a hit, called "Jealous", but "Kiss Of Life" was really the end for the 'Belles, as they started splitting the fanbase by feuding over the name, and both trying to play shows on the eternally lucrative goth-circuit. The Jay incarnation played a short tour with Flesh For Lulu a few years back, and I remember reading some glowing reviews of Jay's albums these past few years. Every once in awhile you'd hear one or the other of these raggle taggle black magis spit some venom at each other but JAY really seems to have wrestled the cash cow away from Michael, Apparently not so in love with Gene anymore. I haven't been moved to buy his records without Mike, but chances are, I figure, it's more or less, probably, more of the same, y'know? Beggars Banquet's re-releasing the first three records, "Promise", "Immigrant", and "Desire" and I recommend you purchase all three and a plane ticket if you've been listening to the Smiths alot lately, while getting bored with your meal ticket husband and his dumb log cabin in the woods on the other coast, if you've been thinking anything about our wonder years together, and whatever happened to your devoted boy with the thorn in his side.
"Sugar, I've been missing you, and I've been wondering, where it is you're hiding...."
James Stevenson's still in the band, but moonlights in the ALARM. I look forward to reading his autobiography, "25 Years In The Rocknroll Wilderness".


- Pepsi Sheen 

* I don't know how it happened either. I remember watching a live Gene Loves Jezebel concert on MTV during the "Discover" days, and one of 'em, who knows which one, says, between songs, "We're from Wales....and we're so THIN!" They were the most ridiculous 80's band I can think of, really. And yet, I had all their fuckin' records, too. And I'm one of Pepsi's old "AC/DC pals"! What a decade. -Sleazegrinder

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