Gene Loves Jezebel, after their totally ‘80s in-fight, are touring minus the popster twin.
Thursday, February 10, 2005
Throughout history, there have been artists torn apart by two competing desires: the wish to create a lasting, profound piece of work and the hankering for financial success and a larger audience.
In the 1980s, these desires were personified by twin brothers Jay and Michael Aston of the goth/glam band Gene Loves Jezebel.
On the phone from his home in Los Angeles, Michael Aston says that he and his brother Jay always had a bitter disagreement about the direction of Gene Loves Jezebel. Michael says that his songs were too bitter for his twin, while he regarded Jay’s songs as too saccharine for his own taste.
In their early days, Gene Loves Jezebel was a goth-influenced rock band with songs hinting at a darker subject matter. On 1986’s Discover, the androgynous beanpole twins sang wailing call-and-response vocals over decadent guitar rock. By 1987’s The House of Dolls—which featured the hit “The Motion of Love”—Jay had steered the group towards a more accessible pop sound.
Michael says he was so embarrassed by the direction his band was taking that he made sure his face was obscured by a blue dot in the video for “The Motion of Love.”
According to Michael, it was painful to watch his band transform from an arty rock outfit to a pop vehicle aiming for hit sales.
“It was like The Beatles starting with the White Album and ending with “She Loves You,” he says. “It was a devolution.”
Michael says that he believes the group hit its peak with 1985’s Immigrant.
“Immigrant—to me—is in its own way a masterpiece,” he says. “To me, that epitomizes the best of what my brother and I did.”
To this day, the twin brothers’ different beliefs about Gene Loves Jezebel have kept them from speaking since the last time they toured together in 1997. While talking with Michael, it becomes evident that their differences probably will not be resolved anytime in the near future.
“My brother is difficult,” he says. “He’s a fucking brat.”
Now, without his brother, Michael is continuing to make music under the Gene Loves Jezebel moniker. (Michael won the rights to the band’s name in a legal battle.) His most recent outing, 2003’s Exploding Girls, is about the different women who have affected his life. Michael says songs like “Downhill Both Ways,” “The Wanting Song” and “Love No Longer” are about his wife, while other numbers deal with women he has never met. For example, the sharp rocker “Exploding Girl” is about a young female Palestinian suicide bomber that Michael saw on the news.
One of the strongest songs on the new CD is “My Heart’s a Flame.” On the tune, Michael sings about discovering women for the first time as a young man over a looping drumbeat and an airy keyboard refrain. It recalls the group’s glory days.
Unfortunately, some of the other songs on the CD seem to be missing a little something. Maybe it’s brother Jay.
Gene Loves Jezebel play the Lava Lounge, in Club Octane, 321 Alvarado St. in Monterey, Thursday at 10pm. No cover. 646-9244.