Since covering her single ‘Blazing Radio’ back in 2014, we here at Backseat Mafia have keenly followed the career of Melbourne’s Gena Rose Bruce and it is with great joy to declare her debut album, ‘Can’t Make You Love Me’, a promise strongly delivered.
There can be no doubt that Bruce’s style has matured and developed over the years, culminating in an album that is sultry, confident and assured: the work of a person far older, battered and bruised than anyone of Bruce’s age would have a right to be. And therein lies the strength of her songwriting and delivery: complex emotional narratives underpinned by understated guitars and synths and expressed in a weary, beautifully rendered style.
Indeed, Gena Rose Bruce has a style that is hard to pin down, a style that has the genes of bands as diverse as The Cramps, Chris Isaacs, Mazzy Star, Linda Ronstadt and Dusty Springfield rolled into one package while delivering a uniqueness that makes her stand out amongst her peers.
We have previously reviewed earlier singles ‘The Way You Make Love’ and ‘Rearview’, noting Bruce’s sultry, languid vocals and a style that recalls Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star) at her best. The former is a slow burning fuse filled with yearning and melancholy, punctuated by crystalline guitars:
Blasting off this album with this superb song sets a high bar: a bar which Bruce clears with some distance.
‘Rearview’ is a beautiful melancholic song that is infused with romantic wistful longing:
Second track, ‘Coming Down’ further develops the southern gothic style that also reflects a self-deprecating sense of humour and undenying swagger with its bluesy riff and a chorus that would melt glaciers. A female Australian Bruce Springsteen, if you will, with her sense of narrative and emotional veracity.
‘Logan’s Beach’ shows that Bruce is not confined, however, to easily definable genre. This has a rolling pop snap that recalls Bananarama’s ‘Venus’ but could find its roots in any dream pop ambient with a yearning taken straight from Donna Summer.
‘Angel Face’ again exposes the golden threat of humour running through the album as she examines the indifference faced from a perfect self-obsessed specimen through the album’s title refrain the line ‘Can’t Make You Love Me’. Bruce’s extraordinary, mesmerising vocals are in the fore as the anger and frustration burn through to an explosive finale.
A Hammond-organ opening and fairground whirl introduces ‘June’, a brief musical interlude before the album slips into ‘I Don’t Think I’ll Get Over You’, a sparse, slow, heart-breaking song to loss with an emotional depth that again nods at a blues/country ballad.
Bruce’s musical palette and influences is expansive. ‘For You’ has a driving southern pace, ‘I Can’t Be That Easy’ a country style with an almost honky-tonk piano bob.
‘Revive’ has a swelling synth spine over which Bruce’s voice reigns supreme, while the final song on the album, ‘Wild One’ reverts to the guitar base that nods back to Bruce’s early years as a solo performer but leavened with unexpected swirls.
“Can’t Make You Love Me’ is an extraordinary debut that brings to the fore Bruce’s gorgeously rich and expressive vocals with personal tales of love and loss. The instrumentation is redolent of southern gothic blues, twanging guitar, reverb-soaked and sharp slashes with unexpected imbedded synth weaving in and out. But above all, and despite the clear influences, Bruce’s songwriting is unique, intimate and brilliantly emotional.
Gena Rose Bruce will be launching the album in Sydney on 18 July, Melbourne on 31 July and Brisbane on 1 August – full details and tickets here.
You can get the album through all the usual digital sources or through the link below where you can order limited edition CDs and vinyl: