As if miffed by the flood of Smiths comparisons their otherwise brilliant debut Olympia garnered, London's Gene call out the dogs, stiffening and toughening their sound for an even more spectacular and far more singular follow-up, the early favorite for 1997's LP of the year. Without changing their style, Drawn to the Deep End expands on it, determined to stretch their boundaries while digging in harder (hiring the ADAM & THE ANTS' old post-punk producer CHRIS HUGHES pays off big time). Right from the emotional rollercoaster of "New Amusements," which goes through several seamless changes (including a brooding piano solo and a vibrating, closing guitar trill riff), anchored by MARTIN ROSSITER's desolate, yearning, guttural vocal, Gene bang you over the head where once they tickled your toes. The smashing, pre-LP single "Fighting Fit" was the hint. It's set to an insistent soul beat that recalls the verses of Smokey Robinson's "Tears of a Clown," dominated by the clap and clamor of STEVE MASON's dazzlingly deceptive guitar work. Drawn then settles in to more contemplative territory (with the exception of the also harried, overloaded "Voice of Your Father," which recalls the breathless rush of their 1994 b-side "This is Not My Crime"), without ever letting go of the monumental forward thrust and edge. "Save Me I'm Yours" and "The Accidental" (featuring a surprising, terrific, guest female vocal solo) are the most touching tracks, so hushed and melancholic yet sweet, they make you fight back tears, a feeling that lurks throughout as Drawn burbles on. There're plenty of other heart tuggers, such as "Where Are They Now," where Rossiter employs a typically mercurial metaphor, comparing being lovelorn and left behind to being "incapable of breathing," over another pulsing, thunder clap pang of Mason and pals. Yow! So much for apathy rock. And never mind heart tugging, there's a passage in "Speak to Me Someone" (which was previewed on Gene's 1995 U.S. tour) that is out-of-the-blue heart stopping, one of those musical moments that makes the room freeze: a simple, screamed "no!!!!" seems to have been pulled by forceps out of Rossiter's lungs, up his windpipe, out through his mouth as if he's been shot. It's clear that the Rossiter/Mason combo is lethal dynamite, and in bassist MILES and JAMES they've got a dynamic rhythm section to make mountains out of molehills. Drawn to the Deep End, as its title implies, is an emotional onslaught, a flood of raw, unfettered, and unfiltered human feeling, an exquisite ebb and flow of earthquakes and temporary serenity. A total, total knockout.