Gene Loves Jezebel: Exploding Girls (Bless Momma Records)

A breezy dream of escape that perfectly catches the wind and soars

When an ’80s new wave icon makes a ’00s revival, it has to be met with equal parts old friend/new skepticism. The return of Gene Loves Jezebel—best known for 1986’s Discover—arrived with a couple other question marks, as well. Frontman Michael Aston, who founded the group with twin brother Jay in 1980, is the only original member; the siblings haven’t spoken since 1997’s legal battle over the rights to the band name. And then there’s the fact that Aston has recorded not just any album, but a concept album: ten songs about women.

But they’re not just sappy odes to women he has loved; the first track, “Exploding Girl,” is an homage to Wafa Idris, the first female Palestinian suicide bomber. “Jenin” pays tribute to the Palestinian refugee camp. And “Blue Mary” is dedicated to the fallen, Mary Magdalene.

Upon first listen, Aston’s voice—flat, nasal, and very distinct—is comforting and familiar. Rather than sounding lost in the ’80s, though, the music’s contemporary and relevant, as is the message. Lyrically, Aston is still a bit repetitious, and he asks a lot of his voice—though interesting, it’s not quite enough to pull off an entire album alone (here is where brother Jay’s contrasting ranges are sorely missed). Still, he gives it his very best try, complete with vocal distortions and his own prerecorded backing vocals, which provide a bit of variety.

Highlights of the disc include the aforementioned “Jenin” (“Jenin is waiting, she is waiting at her well/‘It won’t fall down,’ she says. ‘It won’t fall down.’”), the gently rolling “My Heart’s a Flame,” the raw hunger of “2 Hungry Women,” and the African beat of “Blue Mary.” The standout track, however, has to be “Aire (Buenos Aires),” a breezy dream of escape that perfectly catches the wind and soars.

Fans of Gene Loves Jezebel’s “Desire” days won’t be disappointed by Exploding Girls—and with the right promotion, Michael Aston’s thoughtful musings on the second sex could very well introduce GLJ to a new legion of listeners.

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