Posts Tagged ‘The Go-Betweens’

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Brisbane Australia’s The Go-Betweens are one of my favourite bands ever, but it’s sometimes difficult to explain their appeal. Robert Forster and Grant McLennan were limited as guitarists and vocalists, but they balance each other so beautifully (Forster was a fan of The Velvet Underground, and McLennan a fan of The Monkees), and their songs are literate, graceful, and melodic. Apart from their debut, each of their albums has ten songs, five from each writer, and most of their album titles feature a pair of Ls. They made some great albums during the 1980s, eloquent, literate, melodic, and honest, with the focus on Forster and McLennan’s accomplished songwriting. McLennan is the more straightforward writer of the pair, while Forster writes angular and spiky songs, and the two balance each other very well; their solo records are far less compelling than their group efforts. The Go-Betweens’ career had two tenures; the first between 1978 and 1990, where McLennan and Forster’s main collaborators were drummer Lindy Morrison and bass player Robert Vickers. Amanda Brown joined the band on oboe and violin for 1987’s Tallulah. Over the 1980s, The Go-Betweens consisted of two couples; Forster and Morrison, and McLennan and Brown, complicating band dynamics and contributing to the band’s initial dissolution in 1990.
Forster and McLennan reformed the band in 2000, releasing three more albums before McLennan’s sudden death from a heart attack in 2006; while the reunion albums are weaker overall than their earlier work, Oceans Apart was a fine swansong to their career. Forster’s since carved out a successful career as a music journalist and published several books.

The Go-Betweens’ 1981 debut “Send Me A Lullaby” was recorded as a three piece, with McLennan on bass and Lindy Morrison on drums. The group gradually expanded throughout the 1980s, adding English bass player Robert Vickers, and then multi-instrumentalist Amanda Brown on violin and oboe. By 1988’s “16 Lovers Lane”, the band’s sound was lush and layered, a drastic evolution from their austere early albums. But band tensions took their toll, with two pairs of lovers and former lovers, and the band called it a day in 1989.

But Forster and McLennan remained friends, and reunited the band in the 21st century without the other members. They released two passable but uninspiring albums before 2005’s lush “Oceans Apart”, which rivalled their 1980s albums with some great songs. But as their career was regaining momentum, Grant McLennan passed away from a heart attack at the age of 48, ending the band. it’s a good time to go through and rank The Go-Betweens’ albums from best to worst.

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Send Me A Lullaby (1981)

The awkward debut, where McLennan contributes a few nice songs, but Forster’s trying too hard for weirdness. The “I shot you with my….. camera” line from ‘Eight Pictures is particularly awkward, and the iconic cover is perhaps the album’s strongest point. Recorded in Melbourne with the Birthday Party’s producer, Send Me A Lullaby is a mere shadow of the great albums that The Go-Betweens would produce for the remainder of the 1980s. It’s a strange mixture of self-consciousness and weird artiness, and doesn’t often capture the promise of early singles like ‘Karen’, ‘People Say’, and ‘Lee Remick’. It also breaks the group’s template; it’s the only Go-Betweens album to not feature exactly five songs from each writer.

On the positive side, Lindy Morrison’s drumming is already distinctive and interesting, and the group occasionally get an interesting sound from their technically limited three piece, like on the opener ‘Your Turn, My Turn’.
Robert Forster’s ‘Eight Pictures’ is particularly awkward, with its ‘I shot you with …. my camera’ punchline, and a painful five minute running time. Meanwhile, the best material is McLennan’s – opener ‘Your Turn, My Turn’ captures the potential of the weird sounding three piece, while ‘All About Strength’ is robust and muscular.
The Go-Betweens improved significantly after this underwhelming debut – their followup Before Hollywood is a huge step forward, featuring the signature song ‘Cattle and Cane’.

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Bright Yellow, Bright Orange (2003)

I’ve always found The Go-Betweens’ second reunion album a little monotonous – it’s largely acoustic, and well crafted, but it lacks the spark of their best material.

The second installment in the reunion trilogy from The Go-Betweens is also the least noteworthy of the trio. Forster and McLennan recruited a new permanent backing band with bassist Adele Pickvance and drummer Glenn Thompson. After The Friends Of Rachel Worth dabbled with alternative rock, Bright Yellow Bright Orange returns to more familiar territory, consisting almost entirely of mid-tempo, semi-acoustic folk rock. While this sounds like a step in the right direction, it’s not; it still lacks the lushness that characterised their best period late albums like 16 Lovers Lane and Oceans Apart.

Even more markedly, it’s easily the least interesting set of songs that Forster and McLennan have compiled on a studio record. It’s not surprising that Forster’s verbose, autobiographical ‘Too Much Of One Thing’ was the only song to make the Striped Sunlight Sound DVD that followed Oceans Apart; alternatively titled “The Ballad Of The Go-Betweens”, it’s a likable, jaunty, piece of country rock. But apart from McLennan’s melodic ‘Mrs Morgan’, and the piano-based closer ‘Unfinished Business’, Bright Yellow, Bright Orange is all mid-tempo, acoustic guitar based music that’s meticulously written and crafted, but fails to capture the spark of the Go-Betweens at their best.

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The Friends of Rachel Worth (2001)

The Go-Betweens’ first reunion album was recorded with members of Sleater-Kinney, and it’s alternative and stripped down, a different approach from their lush records in the second half of the 1980s.

Although Robert Forster and Grant McLennan had maintained a friendship and played live together since The Go-Betweens breakup, a fully fledged reunion didn’t occur until 2000 with the recording of The Friends Of Rachel Worth in Portland, Oregon. Understandably, having former lovers Lindy Morrison and Amanda Brown back in the band wasn’t a desirable option, so Forster and McLennan recruited bassist Adele Pickvance, a permanent fixture in The Go-Betweens’ second incarnation, and drummer Janet Weiss from Sleater-Kinney, while the other Sleater-Kinney members guest on McLennan’s ‘Going Blind’.

As much as The Friends Of Rachel Worth is a reinstatement of the classic Go-Betweens formula, back to ten songs equally shared between Forster and McLennan, it’s also different from the relatively ornate studio craft that the group pursued on Tallulah and 16 Lovers Lane. Instead, the sound is more alternative and stripped down, which can be problematic on some of the acoustic tracks which are more monotonous than necessary.

The record isn’t helped by the fact that it gets off to a slow, low-key start; although McLennan is often sentimental, opener ‘Magic In Here’ is more hackneyed than one would expect on a Go-Betweens album (“Now the coast is clear/You’ve got no time to fear”) while acoustic first drop ‘Spirit’ is pleasant but exposes Forster’s lack of vocal chops. But apart from Forster’s irritating ‘Surfing Magazines’, the rest of the album is surprisingly solid. Forster rocks on ‘German Farmhouse’, a song that explains what he did after The Go-Betweens breakup, while McLennan’s ‘Heart And Home’ has a beautiful melody and joint lead vocal from Forster and McLennan. The more enigmatic pieces that close the disc are also effective – McLennan’s ‘Orpheus Beach’ is melodic and haunting, while Forster’s Patti Smith tribute ‘When She Sang About Angels’ asks “When she sang about a boy/Kurt Cobain/I thought what a shame/It wasn’t about Tom Verlaine.”

You’d have to go all the way back to Send Me A Lullaby to find a less accomplished Go-Betweens record, but it’s a respectable reunion nonetheless, and the start of an ultimately rewarding second tenure.

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Spring Hill Fair (1984)

The band’s first album as a four piece has great material from Forster, but McLennan’s a little scattershot, contributing both the beautiful ‘Bachelor Kisses’ and the awkward experimentation of ‘River Of Money’. But like the next five albums on this list, Spring Hill Fair is an essential purchase for Go-Betweens fans.

The Go-Betweens became a four piece, adding bassist Robert Vickers to the band. With Grant McLennan moving to lead guitar, the band sound much fuller than before, and  Robert Forster’s material is more conventional, forgoing jerky new wave in favour of more conventional pop, although his material is still more fractured than McLennan’s. So conceivably, Spring Hill Fair could have been the album where the Go-Betweens crossed over to the mainstream, spear-headed by the transcendent opener ‘Bachelor Kisses’ (“Don’t believe what you heard/Faithful’s not a bad word”). They didn’t, and never progressed much further than an enthusiastic cult following, but from this point on it gets difficult to see why, beyond Forster and McLennan’s plain singing voices. Spring Hill Fair was recorded in jazz keyboardist Jacques Loussier’s Cannes studio; Loussier contributes Prophet synth to Forster’s ‘Part Company’

The widened sound palette allows the group to try more things, and for better and worse Spring Hill Fair is more diverse than the low key Before Hollywood. Most notably, ‘River Of Money’ features a spoken McLennan vocal over a backdrop of a repetitive bass-line and loud guitars, and it’s one of the weaker pieces on the disc. But elsewhere, McLennan’s ultra-melodic and accessible; as well as the acknowledged genius of ‘Bachelor Kisses’, the more overlooked ‘Unkind and Unwise’ is almost hymn-like childhood reminiscence, a sequel to ‘Cattle and Cane’. But McLennan is eclipsed by Forster on Spring Hill Fair: a fuller four piece version of the single ‘Man O’ Sand To Girl O’ Sea’ lacks the raw energy of the original, but it’s still worth a revisit, while ‘Draining The Pool For You’ tells the tale of a disgruntled employee of a celebrity, and ‘Part Company’ is an ambiguous kiss off, set off by Loussier’s keyboard.

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Tallulah (1987)

Multi-instrumentalist Amanda Brown joined The Go-Betweens, and her skills on oboe and violin help fill out their sound. As with most of the band’s 1980s albums, Forster’s writing is excellent with overlooked songs like ‘You Tell Me’ and ‘I Just Get Caught Out’ but McLennan’s is inconsistent – ‘Bye Bye Pride’ is my favourite Go-Betweens song, but ‘Cut It Out’ is awkward white boy funk.

Classically trained multi-instrumentalist Amanda Brown joined The Go-Betweens for Tallulah, and her skills on violin, oboe, guitar, and keyboards helped usher in the band’s most commercially oriented era. The Go-Betweens benefited from a lusher, more detailed sound – the richly textured 16 Lovers Lane and Oceans Apart are among their most successful albums.

Song for song, however, Tallulah isn’t the most consistent Go-Betweens album, mostly due to inconsistent writing from Grant McLennan. It’s almost as if he’d put all his effort into one song – the sublime ‘Bye Bye Pride’ might be my favourite entry in the entire Go-Betweens’ catalogue, a warm, enigmatic breakup song (“When a woman learns to walk she’s not dependent anymore/A line from her letter May 24”). But McLennan’s other songs are all flawed – ‘Right Here’ squanders a great verse melody and terrific lyrics on a predictable chorus, while ‘Someone Else’s Wife’ and ‘Hope Then Strife’ mostly come alive on their dynamic choruses. ‘Cut It Out’ is the most awkward song the Go-Betweens ever put on an album, with an unnatural funk rhythm and stilted female vocals. Both ‘Right Here’ and ‘Cut It Out’ were recorded with producer Craig Leon at the behest of the record label, but the stiff feel of these tracks isn’t right for The Go-Betweens.

On the other hand, Robert Forster’s material is becoming more aligned with McLennan’s melodic pop – ‘You Tell Me’ and ‘I Just Get Caught Out’ are hooky and urgent, while ‘The House That Jack Kerouac Built’ is haughty and compelling – only ‘The Clarke Sisters’ really steps into arty territory, and its portraits of three feminist bookstore workers are engrossing.

When this record works it’s amazing, and I’ve probably spent more time listening to “Tallulah” than any other Go-Betweens release.

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Oceans Apart (2005)

The Go-Betweens’ third and last reunion album is easily their best from the 21st century, recapturing the lush sound of 16 Lovers Lane, and with great songs like Forster’s ‘Darlinghurst Nights’ and McLennan’s ‘No Reason To Cry’. Some of the early CDs have poor mastering jobs, however – I’m no audiophile, but it’s bad enough that I notice.

After two worthy, but unspectacular, additions to their canon, The Go-Betweens reunion suddenly clicked to wonderful effect third time around. This is easily Forster and McLennan’s best set of songs from their reunion. Sonically the album returns to the lusher sound of Tallulah and 16 Lovers Lane, and it’s a welcome reversion.

The first half of Oceans Apart is loaded with concise, accessible pop songs; Forster contributes the opening ‘Here Comes A City’, reminiscent of early Talking Heads, with lyrics like “Why do people who read Dostoevsky always look like Dostoevsky?” McLennan might be shooting too close to radio fodder with the pretty ‘Finding You’, but his other first half contributions are magnificent; ‘No Reason To Cry’ launches from regret (“fifteen years since we last spoke”) into a soaring guitar solo, while ‘Boundary Rider’ is cut from the same elegant, nostalgic cloth as ‘Cattle and Cane’ and ‘Unkind and Unwise’. The second half of the album is more ambitious and more ambiguous; Forster’s ‘Darlinghurst Nights’ builds over six minutes, eventually overlaying a horn section over Forster’s punchy guitar riff. McLennan’s ‘The Statue’ dives headlong into a hypnotic guitar riff, drum machine and synthesiser based arrangement, before opening into a pretty acoustic bridge (“They say that ice will melt”), while ‘This Night’s For You’ marries bouncy pop and pretty harmonies to outbursts of crashing rhythm guitars. Forster’s low key ‘The Mountains Near Dellray’ provides a suitably enigmatic conclusion.

While the group weren’t aware of it while making Oceans Apart, it proved to be their last album, as McLennan died of a heart attack in 2006, especially sad as prior to McLennan’s death, Forster had stated in interviews that McLennan had been writing some of his best ever songs. Still, it seems unlikely they would have topped this record, which is an extremely satisfying final album and a fitting elegy to one of pop music’s most overlooked bands.

Strangely, the mastering job on the original album is noticeably substandard – there’s obvious distortion, particularly on ‘This Night’s For You’, although apparently there’s a remaster that fixes these issues.

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Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express (1986)

A particularly solid effort from the band’s stellar run in the 1980s, and one which I suspect is a favourite of many hardcore fans. A crop-top wearing Forster emulates Prince on ‘Head Full Of Steam’ (and parodies him in its music video, below) while McLennan writes gorgeous songs like ‘The Wrong Road’ and ‘The Ghost and the Black Hat’.

Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express has the same lineup as Spring Hill Fair and it’s a more mature and more disciplined follow up. Robert Forster has stated that his favourite Go-Betweens albums from the 1980s were the even numbered ones, so fourth album Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express is one of the strong ones.

Forster dominates the record with the singles ‘Head Full Of Steam’ (apparently an attempt to emulate Prince!) and ‘Spring Rain’, both melodic and driving. ‘To Reach Me’ throws in a great lead break, before its memorable “Ruth said/Ruth said/She said/That you once disapproved/How could anyone disapprove of me?” middle eight, while ‘Twin Layers Of Lightning’ emulates Morrissey.

Grant McLennan writes another evocative childhood song, ‘The Ghost And The Black Hat’, while a string section underpins his gorgeous epic ‘The Wrong Road’ (“When the rain hit the roof/With the sound of a finished kiss/Like a lip lifted up from a lip”). Some of McLennan’s second half compositions aren’t as convincing – ‘In The Core Of A Flame’ has a surprisingly banal “that’s the right word/Cos I love you” chorus – and ‘Apology Accepted’ overstays its welcome despite its heartfelt lyric.

Often a fan favourite, Liberty Belle is another excellent entry into the catalogue of an excellent, literate, and over-looked band.

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Before Hollywood (1983)

A huge step forward from the awkward debut from the Australian three piece. McLennan’s terse, autobiographic ‘Cattle and Cane’ is perhaps the group’s signature song, while Forster contributes the jerky new wave of ‘As Long As That’ and ‘Ask’. Bass player Robert Vickers joined in time to appear in the music video for ‘Cattle and Cane’, below.

The Go-Betweens’ second album, and the last the group recorded as a three piece, was their critical breakthrough, containing their signature song ‘Cattle and Cane’. Guitarist/songwriter Robert Forster, bassist/songwriter Grant McLennan and drummer Lindy Morrison had moved to London following their debut, and signed with Rough Trade. Before Hollywood was recorded in Eastbourne’s International Christian Communication Studios, with minimal overdubs, although guest keyboardist Bernard Clarke provides graceful piano on ‘Dusty In Here’ and swirling organ on ‘That Way’.

Despite the thin sound – the group’s other first tier records (Liberty Belle, 16 Lovers Lane, and Oceans Apart) are all much more studio based and lushly produced – Before Hollywood stands up as one of the group’s best records, one of their most consistent sets of songs. It’s McLennan’s childhood reminiscence ‘Cattle and Cane’ that’s the most noteworthy song here, recently voted as one of the ten greatest Australian songs of all time, with its weird time signature and nostalgic lyrics (“I recall a schoolboy coming home/through fields of cane/to a house of tin and timber.”) The organ led ‘That Way’, which sounds like a cross between The Monkees, Bob Dylan, and Television (a conglomeration which sums up the group’s sound pretty well) shows McLennan’s ability in well-crafted, understated pop.

McLennan’s other stunner is the minimalist, understated ‘Dusty In Here’, almost pared down to a lonely piano. Balancing McLennan’s nostalgia and romanticism, Forster’s nervy pop is tense and hooky. ‘As Long As That’ (“I’ve got a feeling, sounds like a fact”) is his most accessible, while ‘Ask’ and ‘On My Block’ throw lots of energy around.

One of the best, and most over-looked, records to come out of late new wave, Before Hollywood is markedly different than the group’s subsequent albums, but excellent nonetheless.

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16 Lovers Lane (1988)

After spending much of the 1980s in the UK, the group returned to Australia and recorded their most accessible album. The recordings were largely based off Forster and McLennan’s acoustic guitars and voices, with Amanda Brown and new bass player John Willsteed adding lushness with their overdubs – Willsteed plays a lot of guitar leads – while Morrison is often absent and replaced by a drum machine. It’s McLennan’s most consistent set of songs, with ‘Quiet Heart’ and the minor hit ‘Streets Of Your Town’, while Forster is less arty than usual with ‘Clouds’ and ‘You Can’t Say No Forever’.

The Go-Betweens had been quietly releasing some very good albums throughout the 1980s, but 16 Lovers Lane is their peak; it features their strongest line up instrumentally, with new member John Willsteed officially the bass player but adding lots of guitar parts, and producer Mark Wallis adding an ornate sheen. The album also contains Robert Forster’s most accessible set of songs and Grant McLennan’s most consistent set. With Wallis working from Forster and McLennan’s acoustic demos, he broadens their range; McLennan’s ‘The Devil’s Eye’ is pared down almost to acoustic guitar, while Forster’s ‘You Can’t Say No Forever’ is given a dance-able rhythm and sassy blaxploitation guitar.

Forster writes his prettiest material ever – ‘Clouds’, ‘Dive For Your Memory’, ‘I’m Allright’ and ‘Love Is A Sign’ are all sweetly melodic, underscored by Amanda Brown’s oboe. McLennan’s five songs are all winners, ranging in mood from the aggressive, punchy ‘Was There Anything I Could Do?’, through the exuberance of ‘Love Goes On!’ and the melancholic resignation of ‘Quiet Heart’.

Quite simply, 16 Lovers Lane is one of the best pop albums by anyone.

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Here we have only covered the original albums, but their 1980s albums have been re-released with bonus discs – I have some of them, and there’s definitely some good material in their b-sides; if you’re a fan you’ll want to hear songs like ‘Second Hand Furniture’, ‘Rock and Roll Friend’, and ‘That Girl Black Girl’. They also released a two disc DVD “That Striped Sunlight Sound” in 2005 – the live set is competent but  unexciting, but there’s a great bonus disc where Forster and McLennan play some of their best loved songs on acoustic guitars and discuss them.

This is the highlight of “That Striped Sunlight Sound‘s” first disc – a gorgeous acoustic version of ‘Clouds’, which incorporates a verse from Dylan’s ‘Love Minus Zero’.

Thanks to Aphoristic Album Reviews

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Long unavailable solo albums to be reissued by Needle Mythology • Vinyl available with SIGNED lyric sheets • Remastered CDs with bonus tracks from Robert Forster, the ex-Go-Betweens singer-songwriter, is to reissue his first two solo albums this March.

The albums – Danger In The Past and Calling From A Country Phone – are the fourth and fifth releases from Pete Paphides’ Needle Mythology label. These were first issued in 1990 and 1993 respectively, and have been long out of print and indeed, this campaign also heralds the debut of Calling From A Country Phone on vinyl.

It’s been a busy old time for Forster of late, following a 2019 which saw a new album Inferno, and the release of the well-received box set G is for Go-Betweens Vol. 2.

1990’s Danger In The Past was originally recorded in Berlin with a cast of Bad Seeds alumni such as Mick Harvey (producer, multi-instrumentalist), Hugo Race (guitar) and Thomas Wydler (drums) while Calling From A Country Phone saw Robert return to Brisbane and the same studio where most of the early Go-Betweens gear had been recorded.

These vinyl reissues are issued on heavyweight vinyl (pressed at The Vinyl Factory), are housed in a gatefold sleeve and each comes with a bonus seven-inch single; Danger In The Past has ‘The Land That Time Forgot’ / ‘Falling Star’, and Calling From A Country Phone features ‘Lonely Boy’ / ‘Brookfield 1975’. The CDs append these songs to the albums as ‘hidden’ bonus tracks, and come with a 16 page booklet.

Forster himself has been fully involved on these reissues contributing new sleeve notes and unearthing old photographs.

Curator Paphides has been particularly effusive about the remastering undertaken by Sean Magee at Abbey Road, saying his work “dramatically revealed a depth and physicality to these recordings that casts new light on Robert’s intentions for these records. Calling From A Country Phone, in particular, is a revelation. It’s as though an invisible membrane between listener and songs has been removed.”

Both albums are now available to pre-order on either format via Needle Mythology’s official store. CDs come with a Needle Mythology badge pack while vinyl purchasers get the badges and a Signed lyric sheet. Bundles also available!

Danger In The PastandCalling From A Country Phoneare released by Needle Mythology on 27th March 2020

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From shambolic cult pop to FM-friendly accessibility, these tracks display Grant McLennan’s melodic genius and Robert Forster’s lyrical brilliance

Lee Remick

The earliest Go-Betweens recordings reveal the band’s simpler, shambolic pop aesthetic rather than the sophisticated sound for which they became renowned. The 1978 single Lee Remick was a bouncy, light-hearted love letter to the actor that’s as poppy as it is punk, but offered an early showcase for the Go-Betweens’ knack for melody. Lee Remick, alongside the primitive brilliance of other early recordings Karen and Eight Pictures, was written in the space of a month, not long after the Go-Betweens formed. The band consisted of two 19-year-olds, Robert Forster and co-founder Grant McLennan, who were joined by a drummer they knew. Nervous, depressed and distrustful, this was when the Go-Betweens focused their attention on what Forster described as “feelings in the bedroom, Brisbane, driving my car and anything from overheard conversations” rather than attempting to address universal themes. The group were still unformed in many ways, but Lee Remick’s addictive pop sensibility makes it an enduring cult classic that sounds as joyously youthful today as it ever did.

Your Turn My Turn

The band’s first album, 1981’s Send Me a Lullaby, confirms the notion that debuts usually present the least refined version of a group, but even here the Go-Betweens still sound more cultivated than most of their indie contemporaries. But there remained a raw post-punk sensibility in tracks such as Your Turn, My Turn, with its sharp edges. The combination of clunky, sporadic piano parts with the melody and sharp, resonant guitar creates an affecting contrast.

By Chance

WhileSend Me a Lullaby primarily dabbled in post-punk urgency, its successor, Before Hollywood, established the Go-Betweens’ propensity for melding calm, intricate melodies with something more frantic. The sudden shifts in tempo results in a record filled with variety and colour, exhibited in the contrast between Cattle and Cane – which focuses on the band’s more introspective tendencies – and the hurried frenzy of By Chance. The lyrics are cryptic here, but it’s the impulsive, stop-start arrangements that make it an often omitted Go-Betweens classic, alongside the desperate brilliance of Send Me a Lullaby’s Midnight to Neon.

Cattle and Cane

Their most celebrated song, Cattle and Cane, was composed in the summer of 1982 on a borrowed guitar in London, though it sounded meticulously thought-out and crafted, rather than impulsively put together in someone’s spare bedroom. That’s the effortless genius of Grant McLennan: an incredibly talented songwriter and guitarist who had a way with words that was haunting and evocative. “The rhythm struck me as strange, the mood as beautiful and sad. The song came easily, was recorded quickly and still haunts me,” he said in an interview shortly before his death, at the age of 48, in 2006. Cattle and Cane reflects a phase in the Go-Betweens’ trajectory when many of their songs dwelt on the subject of Australia, catalysed by the homesickness they felt after relocating to England.

As Long As That

The Go-Betweens progressed to a style that was more focused, if not unknowingly complicated and clever, on Before HollywoodBy this point, Lindy Morrison had become more proficient on drums – her effortless, no-frills approach was essential to the Go-Betweens’ sound. Filled with a series of intricate melodies, the slow, languid pace of As Long As That is a comparative slow-burner among the chaos of tracks such as By Chance and That Way. That variation and nuance made Before Hollywood one of the best records they ever made, and perhaps the absolute best.

Part Company

Part Company on first listen, it sounds like the perfect love song to soundtrack broken hearts and lovers going their separate ways: “What will I miss? Her cruelty; her unfaithfulness,” Forster laments, sounding both tragic and heartfelt, but never too sentimental. According to Forster, however, all is not what it seems. He wrote the song when the group were on the cusp of moving to England, and it is an ode to Australia. That all makes perfect sense once you delve a little deeper into the inner workings of Forster’s poetic discourse: “From the first letter I got to this, her bill of rights,” he sings. Part Company – from the band’s third album, Spring Hill Fair – displays the more mature style that Forster and McLennan were aiming for. It exhibits so many prevailing Go-Betweens qualities in one song: strong, literate lyrics that are never self-indulgent, arrangements that are filled with occasional subtle tweaks – such as the nervous hum of the keyboard low in the mix – and Morrison’s drums: simple, but effective. The best thing about Part Company is the interplay of Forster’s and McLennan’s guitars, a perfect example of their musical relationship being one of cohesion and understanding. What’s more, there will never be a moment in music as melancholy as when Forster sings: “That’s her handwriting, that’s the way she writes.”

River of Money

River of Money is the Go-Betweens trying their hand at sleazy post-punk in the spirit of their friend Nick Cave. Put next to an album such as 16 Lovers Lane, you’d think it was an entirely different band. The lyrics are some of the Go-Betweens’ best, and on paper they read like strangely affecting free verse: “It is neither fair nor reasonable to expect sadness to confine itself to its causes.” River of Money plods along at such a leisurely pace that it sounds like it’s stuck on the wrong RPM, but it sits comfortably among the other more buoyant, upbeat songs on Spring Hill Fair, and the contrast displays the band’s breadth of vision perfectly.

Draining the Pool for You

A lesson in how to write the perfect indie rock song, Draining the Pool for You sounds like the inspiration behind everything Pavement have ever done, though Forster confessed to writing the melody in 10 minutes in a London hotel while writing for Morrison to put on her lipstick. The lyrics are set in a mansion in Los Angeles where the narrator is working for an “idiot movie star”. He sees himself as the only intelligent, talented person there, yet he is hired to clean the pool for the luxury parties that take place. Lyrically, it’s perhaps one of the more simplistic Go-Betweens songs, but the arrangements – leisurely guitar lines, aptly placid, repetitive drums, and an unforgettable, soaring chorus – should make this a hit in an ideal world. The song portrays resentment brilliantly: “I remembered your name – evidently you’ve forgotten mine,” Forster sings, apathetically, feeling overworked and underappreciated.

Head Full of Steam

Released in March 1986, the Go-Betweens’ fourth LP, Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express, was the band’s most accessible album up to that point: Morrison said she believed that if drum machines and synthesisers had replaced the organic arrangements it would have been a hit. This new FM-friendly approach was a surprise to those who had been following the Go-Betweens from the start, but in retrospect it was a natural progression for a band who always had a pop sensibility. Liberty Belle is often regarded as rather hit and miss, but Head Full of Steam is a highlight. Its softer, janglepop sound showed that shifting towards simplification could work in their favour. As Forster said: “I’m writing a lot less complicated music, and it’s giving me space to put myself in it.”

Clouds

In a 1988 NME interview, McLennan said: “I maintain that the Go-Betweens write about love better than anybody else in the world.” He wasn’t wrong: their sixth LP, 16 Lovers Lane, is shamelessly lovelorn. It should have been the album that took them beyond being a cult band – one for whom the phrase “critics’ favourite” might have been invented. Gone were the ragged edges; lyrics became less obtuse, the production more polished, the guitars acoustic and the strings warm and contemplative. The Go-Betweens were at their most accessible, and with that came praise from many critics, but fans seemed sceptical of the change in direction and the breakthrough didn’t happen. Still, 16 Lovers Lane had a cohesion their other albums perhaps lacked. Forster’s lyrics sat perfectly alongside McLennan’s heartfelt, melodic impulses. Clouds showcased that juxtaposition: its uplifting tone is undercut by a deep sadness.

We are happy to finally announce the upcoming release of the second installment of the Go-Betweens anthology series, which will be released worldwide on December 6th.

“G Stands For Go-Betweens Volume 2” extensively documents the band’s creative output in the latter half of the Eighties in an ambitious box containing five vinyl LPs, five compact discs and an extensive 112-page book, featuring a trove of archival photos and extensive historical liner notes from founding member Robert Forster, along with additional pieces from guest essayists, fans and contemporaries.

The box set captures the band’s output from 1985 through 1989 and includes the first vinyl re-pressings of the three mid-period studio albums in over thirty years (“Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express,” “Tallulah” & “16 Lovers Lane”), all re-mastered from the original analogue tapes. “G Stands For Go-Betweens Volume 2” also includes an eighteen-song double LP of the band performing live at London’s legendary Town & Country Club on May 10th, 1987. Additionally, the set comes with five compact discs of their b-sides, radio sessions & rare, hard-to-find and unreleased demos.

out December 6th via Domino Recording Co.,

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lots of new releases and reissues out tomorrow as well, the major titles including  –

New Ed Harcourt album ‘Beyond The End’.
A limited Morrissey 7″ – ‘Back On The Chain Gang’
A very limited Type O Negative coloured vinyl reissue of ‘Bloody Kisses’.
Three more Bauhaus reissues – The Bela Session, ‘The Sky’s Gone Out’ and ‘Press Eject…’.
Vol.2 of the Marc Bolan ‘Home Demos’ is finally out after some delay.
A very lovely looking Chic box set. along with the vinyl version Boxed Set of the Tom Petty American Treasure

And in other news…….
King Gizzard & The Flying Wizard 
coloured vinyl reissues are flying out – have you got your copies yet?
Mumford & Sons 
latest album is also selling fast on coloured vinyl.
the excellent new album from Marianne Faithfull.
Post Malone – ‘Beerbongs and Bentleys’.   

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Songs: Ohia ‘Love & Work: The Lioness Sessions’ ltd vinyl box set

Songs: Ohia – ‘Love & Work: The Lioness Sessions’ limited translucent purple coloured double vinyl LP.

The release also includes a 16-page booklet with photos and meditations by Jason’s family and collaborators, as well as replications of ephemera from Jason’s guitar case & life from the time (a handwritten love letter, a postcard, a 2 of Hearts playing card, and more)

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Hippo Campus – Bambi

Hippo Campus release their second album, Bambi through Transgressive Records. On their sophomore album Bambi, the St. Paul, Minnesota-bred band navigate that upheaval with deliberate self-reflection. The result is a selection of songs that drift into much darker terrain, but unfold with a frenetic yet fragile beauty that makes even the most painful moments feel glorious. Partly recorded at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio in Chicago, Bambi finds Hippo Campus working again with producer BJ Burton (Bon Iver, Low, Francis and the Lights), who handled production on their 2017 full-length debut Landmark. And in sculpting Bambi’s distinctly inventive arrangements, Hippo Campus significantly expanded their use of drum machines and synth. Throughout Bambi, Hippo Campus match their relentless self-examination with a joyfully adventurous sonic approach, ultimately transforming the emotional experience of the problems they’re exploring.

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Breeders ‘Safari EP’ ltd 12″ reissue

Being released this November as part of Record Store Day’s sister Black Friday event is a faithful repress of the 12” version of The Breeders’ Safari EP, complete with Shinro Ohtake’s 1983 charcoal drawing Nairobi VIII adorning its cover. Originally released in April 1992, sandwiched between their first two albums (Pod and Last Splash), The Breeders’ Safari EP came at a time when Kim’s Pixies commitments were winding down and her new band were on the cusp of releasing a platinum-selling album.

Their first record to feature Kim Deal’s twin Kelley, the EP was recorded in two studios with the bulk coming from a session in New York, which provided an early version of Do You Love Me Now?, Don’t Call Home and a cover of The Who’s So Sad About Us. The title track, Safari, was recorded separately in London by Kim, Josephine Wiggs and drummer Jon Mattock (Spacemen 3 / Spiritualized).

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Iggy & The Stooges – ‘Rare Power’

The untamed energy of Iggy and The Stooges comes to vinyl for Record Store Day Black Friday on Rare Power, a collection of rare tracks from the sessions that produced their landmark 1973 album Raw Power. Eight of these nine outtakes and alternate mixes are available on vinyl for the first time, and composer Josh Mobley’s remix of Gimme Danger (heard in the best selling video game Watch Dogs) is commercially available for the first time ever.

The Byrds – Sweetheart Of The Rodeo (4 X 12″ Vinyl LP)

By the time Sweetheart Of The Rodeo was released in 1968, The Byrds had already changed the sound of rock music twice; from jangling folk-rock to experimental acid-rock, they constantly sought to push the boundaries of what rock music could be. The 1967 departure of David Crosby left a creative void filled quickly by country music-loving Gram Parsons, whose addition led Roger McGuinn, Chris Hillman and company to record an album comprised mostly of authentic country material in Nashville, with the aid of local session aces (including future Byrd Clarence White). For the first time on vinyl—and on the heels of a 50th anniversary tour of the album by original members McGuinn and Hillman—this Legacy Edition of Sweetheart Of The Rodeo showcases this country-rock masterpiece alongside 28 bonus tracks, including demos, outtakes, rehearsal versions and tracks by Parsons’ pre-Byrds outfit, The International Submarine Band.

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Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Betty’s Midwestern Magic Blends

The Chris Robinson Brotherhood is indisputably one of the hardest working bands in rock ‘n’ roll. 2018 marks the fourth year in a row that they’ll play over 200 shows across the U.S. and Europe. Through that prolific touring schedule, the band has emerged a razor sharp, riveting live unit. Each evening The CRB plays two sets of music with a dynamic, ever-changing setlist. Presenting original material stretching across six studio albums, plus a repertoire of covers that runs from Slim Harpo to Bob Dylan and beyond, it’s only fittng that the band would document this output. They’ve done exactly that through a series of live recordings dubbed, ‘Betty’s Blends’ taking its moniker from legendary Grateful Dead archivist and recording engineer Betty Cantor-Jackson who is called upon to capture The CRB’s performances in multi-dimensional, audio-verite. ‘Betty’s Midwestern Magik Blends’ is the fourth volume from the acclaimed series, gathering highlights from three shows in Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago in October 2016. Available as a vinyl exclusive, 3-LP set with only 3500 copies released, the collection finds The CRB in peak form delivering highlights like “New Cannonball Rag,” “Forever As The Moon” and “Shadow Cosmos,” as well as adapting two from The Rolling Stones: “Down Home Girl” and “Let It Bleed” and the seldom played fan favorite, Steppenwolf’s “Magic Carpet Ride.”

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Violent Femmes – Permanent Record: The Very Best Of Violent Femmes

Permanent Record: The Very Best of Violent Femmes provides a comprehensive overview of The Violent Femmes historic recording career – beginning with tracks from their legendary debut up until their 2000 release, Freak Magnet. The compilation includes the original studio recordings for hit singles such as Blister In The Sun, American Music, Gone Daddy Gone, amongst others, and is a must have for both new listeners and devoted fans alike.

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Jeff Tweedy – Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back)

Through his pioneering work in the legendary country-punk band, Uncle Tupelo, to his enduring legacy as the creative force behind the unclassifiable sound of Wilco, Jeff Tweedy has weaved his way between the underground and the mainstream – and back again.

Funny, disarming, and deeply honest, his memoir casts light on his unique creative process and the stories that shaped his life and career, from a childhood spent in Illinois to the release of No Depression in the early 90s – which set the blueprint for alt-country – and later working with Mavis Staples and, posthumously, Woody Guthrie.

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The Go Betweens – Right Here

Grant McLennan and Robert Forster, the founding members of seminal Brisbane band The Go-Betweens had been close friends and collaborators since their late teens some thirty years before. As it unfolds, we discover how relationships – both creative and romantic – are continually tested, challenged, remoulded and, in some cases, destroyed. The film truthfully exposes all the highs, lows, joy, pain, sorrow and beauty of being in a cult band and of trying to survive the harsh, brutal realities of an at times exploitative music industry. Unflinching, insightful and at times painfully honest, the film tells the story of The Go-Betweens from the inside out, from the people who lived it and from those whose lives were transformed by it.

This Week
Art Brut – ‘WHAM! BANG! POW! LETS ROCK OUT!’ LP
Bauhaus – ‘The Bela Session’ LP reissue
Bauhaus – ‘Press Eject & Give Me The Tape’ ltd white vinyl LP reissue
Bauhaus – ‘The Sky’s Gone Out’ ltd violet vinyl LP reissue
Marc Bolan – ‘Tramp King Of The City: Home Demos Vol. 2’ LP
Bouquet Of Dead Crows – ‘Motus Octo’ splatter vinyl LP
Breeders – ‘Safari EP’ limited 12″ reissue
Mansur Brown – ‘Shiroi’ LP
Lindsey Buckingham – ‘Solo Anthology’ 6LP Box set
Calexico – ‘The Black Light’ ltd clear vinyl 2LP reissue
The Chic Organisation – ‘1977 – 1979’ 5LP + 12″ vinyl box set
Ry Cooder – ‘Mambo Sinuendo’ 2LP
Deep Purple – ‘In Rock’ purple vinyl LP reissue
Deep Purple – ‘Fireball’ purple vinyl LP reissue
Ed Harcourt
 – ‘Beyond The End’ LP
Hippo Campus – ‘Bambi’ ltd coloured vinyl LP
Hozier – ‘Nina Cried Power’ ltd 12″ EP
Durad Jones & The Indications – ‘Live Vol. 1’ blue vinyl LP
Laibach – ‘The Sound Of Music’ gold vinyl LP reissue
Levellers – ‘Levellers’ ltd orange vinyl 2LP reissue
Amy Macdonald – ‘Woman Of The World: 2007-2018’ 2LP
Morrissey – ‘Back On The Chain Gang’ limited 7″
OST – ‘Dredd’ ltd red vinyl LP
OST – ‘End Of Days’ 2LP

Tom Petty – ‘An American Treasure’ 6LP Box Set
Planet B – ‘Planet B’ coloured vinyl LP
Irmin Schmidt – ‘5 Klavierstucke’ LP reissue
Songs: Ohia – ‘Love & Work: The Lioness Sessions’ ltd coloured vinyl box set
Mikael Tariverdiev – ‘Sevnteen Moments Of Spring’ LP
Transmaniacon – ‘The Strange World Of Suzie Pellet’ limited colour vinyl LP

Type O Negative – ‘Bloody Kisses’ ltd silver vinyl 2LP
Vessel – ‘Queen Of Golden Dogs’ LP

Geniuses will always be geniuses ….. And I could not define in another word what happened in Brisbane, Australia in the distant past of 1977 ….

The reunion of Robert Forster and Grant McLennan generated one of the most beautiful bands that the universe has given us, the name, well everyone knows, or should know, The Go-Betweens.
This project is our small tribute to the magnificent work that these magicians created. My special thanks to all the bands that are part of this project.

And, briefly, the main feeling everyone wants with this project is that…. “Loves Goes On”...anyway.

In memory of the eternal Grant William McLennan.

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Grant McLennan Australian alternative singer-songwriter and guitarist. He co-founded the Go-Betweens with Robert Forster in Brisbane in 1977. In addition to his work with the Go-Betweens (1977–89, 2000–06) he released four solo albums, Watershed (1991), Fireboy (1992), Horsebreaker Star (1994) and In Your Bright Ray (1997). He also undertook side-projects and collaborations with other artists. McLennan received a number of accolades recognising his achievements and contributions as songwriter and lyricist.

In 1977 Grant McLennan met Robert Forster at university. Forster encouraged him to learn bass guitar and to form an alternative rock band, Along with Robert Forster, Grant McLennan became one half of the song-writing team behind The Go-Betweens. While The Go-Betweens were on hiatus during the 1990s, Grant McLennan embarked on a solo career, releasing four solo albums, two albums with The Church’s Steve Kilbey, and one album with the Far Out Corporation. McLennan’s songs which evoke the impressions and imagery of the regional background of his childhood include “Cattle and Cane”,“Unkind and Unwise”, “Dusty in Here” (about his father), “Boundary Rider” and “Bye Bye Pride”.

I’m not going to pretend that McLennan’s 1990s work out-shines his songs in the 1980s with The Go-Betweens. It’s certainly not uncommon for pop musicians to do their best writing in their twenties, and there was a sense of McLennan struggling to find his solo identity in the decade. After balancing perfectly with the acerbic, angular Forster in The Go-Betweens, he could be a little overwhelmingly saccharine by himself, and he flirted awkwardly with the mainstream on his first two solo records.

Robert Forster and Grant McLennan play an acoustic version of ‘Cattle & Cane’ and talk about writing a song about growing up in Queensland while living in London. ‘

But 1994’s countrified double album “Horsebreaker Star” is a masterclass of song-writing, even if it tends to blend together, and McLennan is among my favourite song-writers, like a comforting blanket with his warm voice and melodic charm. McLennan didn’t get the chance to add to his solo catalogue after The Go-Betweens’ reunion in the 2000s, dying prematurely from a heart attack in 2006, but here are some of his highlights from his 1990s:

“Providence” (Jack Frost) In 1990 Grant McLennan on lead vocals, bass guitar, lead guitar and keyboards formed a rock band, Jack Frost, in Sydney with the Church’s front man, Steve Kilbey on lead vocals, bass guitar, lead guitar, keyboards and drums. The group released a self-titled album in 1991 and the pair resumed the collaboration in 1995 for a second album, Snow Job.
McLennan’s collaboration with The Church’s Steve Kilbey was recorded in 2 weeks, with the pair playing most of the instruments themselves. McLennan’s work with Kilbey is moodier than his other solo work.

“Surround Me” He released his debut solo album, Watershed, under the name G. W. McLennan in 1991, which was produced by Dave Dobbyn on Mushroom Records’ White Records label. For its United Kingdom version it appeared on Beggars Banquet. It was an “ambitious and highly personalised collection of songs charted McLennan’s emotions in the wake of The Go-Betweens’ break-up. [it] revealed McLennan to be, in turns, the introspective singer/songwriter or the carefree and gregarious performer. McLennan “isn’t the most talented singer; his voice is a bit plain, and his range somewhat limited. He isn’t the most gifted guitarist his playing sometimes amounts to basic acoustic strums. He is, however, a truly exceptional artist who, in the spirit of Lloyd Cole, crafts moments of brilliance to fit his limitations the mainstream sound works for this hooky slice of pop/rock, and its big chorus.

In November 1992 McLennan issued his second album, Fireboy, which was produced by Dobbyn again,  compared to his previous one and found it was “an even more melancholy set of songs that boasted fuller (though never obtrusive) arrangements, it “finds the musician in excellent form, with a baker’s dozen worth of songs that won’t challenge preconceptions, but do make for a great listen all around” with “sweetly sparkling, sometimes barbed, numbers. During 1993 he toured Australia with a backing band comprising Michael Barclay on drums, Pedro Bull on keyboards (both ex-ex-Paul Kelly and the Messengers), Maurice Frawley on guitar (ex-Paul Kelly and the Dots) and Phil Kakulas on bass guitar (ex-Blackeyed Susans) One track “Fingers”
Another song from Fireboy, a moody piano ballad that missed the cut for Intermission, the excellent compilation that McLennan released in tandem with Robert Forster, documenting their respective careers in the 1990s.

McLennan’s third album, Horsebreaker Star, appeared in December 1994 as a double-CD. It was recorded in Athens, Georgia with American session musicians and was produced by John Keane it was McLennan’s most consistently catchy solo album providing 30 snapshots of a resigned romantic while unrolling tune after sweet, simple-seeming tune. its wide-screen outlook, the album shifted from country rock to bright acoustic pop with a great deal of optimism and passion. It was “more of a country/Southern rock bent…his ear for focused, sharp lyrical portraits of life and love, paired with his ever-striking crisp singing style, continues to lead the way. Opener Simone and Perry sets the tone nicely, similar to previous character sketches like The Go-Betweens’ ‘Right Here’.

In September of 1997 McLennan released his fourth solo album, In Your Bright Ray, with Wayne Connolly producing (You Am I, Bluebottle Kiss, Underground Lovers) returns him to his more well-trodden ground, [and] is as warm and soft as a cake out of the oven, a just-washed blanket, and an Eskimo coat. In 1998 he collaborated with Powderfinger’s Ian Haug on guitar in Far Out Corporation. In Your Bright Ray
The title track from McLennan’s final solo album is beautiful and restrained, a sunny, thoughtful piece of pop.

McLennan died of a heart attack at the age of 48 and was survived by his fiancée, Emma Pursey.

It has been announced that three members of beloved Brisbane band The Go-Betweens will reunite for the first time since 1989 to take part in an epic tribute concert for their acclaimed sixth studio album, “16 Lovers Lane”.

Lindy MorrisonAmanda Brown and John Willsteed will pay homage to the 1988 album on which all three played along with co-founders Robert Forster and the late Grant McLennan  — the last Go-Betweens record of the ‘classic’ era — with assistance from Dan KellyDanny Widdicombe and Luke Daniel Peacock rounding out the core line-up of the band.

That already-acclaimed ensemble will be joined by a range of incredible other Australian musicians including The Church’s Steve Kilbey, GANGajang’s Mark Callaghan and Died Pretty’s Ron Peno, as well as festival artistic director Katie Noonan and her brother, Tyrone (both also known for their work with george), plus MontaigneSam Cromack and Jen Boyce (Ball Park Music), Tim Nelson and Zoe Davis (Cub Sport), Sahara Beck and Kirin J Callinan.

“We will be recreating that amazing album on its 30th anniversary … it’s going to be amazing,” Noonan said . “And Lindy, Amanda and John haven’t played together since Berlin in 1989, I think … so that’s super-special.

“You know, Grant was one of my heroes as a musician, but just as a human being — he was the sweetest man — and I thought, well, you know, it was only the 10-year anniversary of his passing, I think, the year before last [Ed: it was 2016], so, you know, he just influenced and inspired so many musicians in Brisbane, Queensland, and around the world; they were such an example of, ‘Wow, you can be from, y’know, St Lucia and have an international career as a musician’.

“Them and The Saints paved the way for so many other artists, so it’ll be beautiful to celebrate Grant’s and Robert’s incredible songwriting and songbook.”

Robert Forster.

Look at the liner notes to any record by The Go-Betweens, and every song is co-credited “R. Forster/G. McLennan.” Perhaps it was out of mutual respect, perhaps it was out of creative solidarity, but as with “Lennon/McCartney,” fans of the Australian rock band could always tell who wrote what song; Grant McLennan and Robert Forster‘s distinct songwriting, vocal and guitar personalities were always on full display. The former’s songs were lush and sensitive, the latter’s concise and politely biting, but as superfan Carrie Brownstein noted, “Before The Go-Betweens, I never thought that delicacy could wield sharp knives.”

When Forster released The Evangelist in 2008, his longtime bandmate had died two years earlier. There was a quiet sadness to that lovely record, one that not only meditated on his Go-Betweens cohort but also paid tribute with some of his unused lyrics and melodies. It’s been seven years since then, and Forster has been no less busy producing records, making a compelling go of it as a music journalist and critic , and orchestrating the first volume of G Is For Go-Betweens, an anthology set exhaustive in its demos, archival material and Forster’s own recollections spanning a fruitful period from 1978 to 1984.

Sounding energized by his younger band, which features members of The John Steel Singers, Songs To Play is Forster’s most diverse and playful solo record. At times, it’s also the most Go-Betweens-y record Forster’s ever made under his own name. In the opening track, “Learn To Burn,” a mid-tempo, hip-swaying strut and a crisp guitar riff help mark it as a sort of throwback to those first singles from the late ’70s, when Forster unapologetically worshiped The Velvet Underground and was still figuring out how to get a song from A to B. But as much as “Learn To Burn” keeps a clean-cut rhythm going, Karin Baumler (Forster’s longtime musical and life partner) draws out the melody on violin, giving the instrumental break a through-line before a cheeky, Chuck berry duck-walking, style solo. After seven years away, Robert Forster’s still got that mile-wide grin, assured by his opening line: “Time’s a signal and you wait for changes / The problem is you know I got no patience.”

 

Songs To Play comes out Sept. 18 on Tapete.

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A 4cd or 4LP Anthology with original with rare and archival recordings and extensive liner notes from Robert Forster, Domino Records are honoured to announce the upcoming Autumn 2014 release of an extraordinary anthology for one of the most beloved and influential Australian groups of all-time, The Go-Betweens.

G Stands For Go-Betweens Volume One extensively documents the band’s origins in an ambitious box containing four vinyl albums, four compact discs and an extensive 112-page book, featuring a trove of archival photos and extensive historical liner notes from founding member Robert Forster, along with additional pieces from guest essayists, fans and contemporaries. The box set captures the band’s output from 1978 through 1984 and includes the first vinyl re-pressings of their first three studio albums in over thirty years (Send Me A Lullaby, Before Hollywood & Spring HillFair), all re-mastered from the original analog tapes. G Stands For Go-Betweens also brings together their early classic and collectible singles together on a fourth vinyl LP entitled The First Five Singles, featuring new artwork from its creators. Additionally, the set comes with four compact discs of rare, hard-to-find and unreleased demos, recordings, radio sessions and a complete live concert radio broadcast from 1982. If that’s not enough, the set comes with a silkscreen of their first promotional poster for their debut single, “Lee Remick”, as well as a reproduction of their very first press release from their own Able Label.

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The first three albums, the first five singles, outtakes, demos, radio sessions and a live show…

In the 1980s, Australia’s Go-Betweens were the dark horse among all those sharp-edged, sweet-and-sour guitar bands with literary pretensions. For those who found the cult of Morrissey too messianic and Lloyd Cole too self-satisfied, here was a connoisseurs’ choice: a band who name-checked Jean Genet while blending Sixties pop nous, 80s indie elegance, the brittle intensity of post-punk and the wayward non-conformity of The Modern Lovers.

A vehicle for the songs and voices of Robert Forster and Grant McLennan, the Go-Betweens formed in December 1977 in Brisbane and ended their first act in 1989. Six years into a fruitful post-Millennial reunion, they finally ceased trading in 2006 following McLennan’s sudden death from a heart attack. Forster has been plotting this gargantuan eight-disc slab of cultural excavation since shortly after that unhappy event; the first of three planned anthologies, it’s a beautifully conceived exploration of the band’s origins and early evolution.

Included are the first three Go-Betweens albums, Send Me A Lullaby (1982), Before Hollywood (1983), and Spring Hill Fair (1984), as well as all ten sides of their first five 45s, collected here on a new stand-alone LP titled The First Five Singles. Running parallel to these four vinyl albums are four CDs, arranged chronologically, consisting of outtakes, hard-to-find and unreleased demos, radio sessions and a complete (and excellent) live concert, recorded at the Mosman Hotel, Sydney, on April 23rd, 1982. There are over 100 tracks in all.

Meeting as fellow arts students at the University of Queensland, Forster and McLennan named their band after L.P. Hartley’s 1953 novel, and throughout its lifespan the group’s music was characterised by a darting intellectual curiosity. Debut single “Lee Remick” is a faux-naif piece of fan mail directed at the actress (“She was in The Omen / with Gregory Peck / She got killed / what the heck”), but its dumbness is studied and self-aware; on the B-side, “Karen”, a song clearly in thrall to Patti Smith’s “Gloria”, they’re already name-checking Brecht, Joyce and Chandler.

By 1980, and third single “I Need Two Heads”, the music had started to catch up with the words. Released on Postcard Records following trips to London and Glasgow, the song is an assured blend of The Cure and The Gang Of Four, giving the Go-Betweens their first Top 10 indie hit in the UK. Orange Juice drummer Steven Daly guested on the track, but by the time they started recording Send Me A Lullaby Lindy Morrison had joined on drums. As a settled three piece, the Go-Betweens’ house sound began to emerge: brittle and sharp, with lots of air between Forster’s guitar, McLennan’s bass and Morrison’s idiosyncratic rhythm. “Careless” has the compulsive twitch of early Orange Juice, and the urgent jangle of “Hold Your Horses” has shades of REM’s Chronic Town, but any sweetness is balanced by a sour twist. The vivid psycho-sexual drama of “Eight Pictures” creeps and crawls, the waspish digs at some thespian love-rival (“Same publicity shots for six years”) barely lightening the mood, while “It Could Be Anyone” recalls the neurotic funk of Talking Heads.

Released the following year, Before Hollywood marks a leap forward in both composition and execution, excising any lingering hints of ramshackle amateurishness. Robert Vickers joined as bassist, McLennan moved to guitar, and piano became a more prominent texture, notably on the lovely “Dusty In Here”. The album includes the masterful “Cattle And Cane”, a taut, minimal, bittersweet reflection on McLennan’s Cairns childhood, written on Nick Cave’s guitar. A slightly reconfigured version of the song features on the fourth CD of rarities.

On Spring Hill Fair, the Go-Betweens’ sound shuffles towards something lusher, more pop-savvy. A serrated edge remains on “Five Words” and the lowering “River Of Money”, but by now the band were lining up against the great song stylists of the mid-80s. Washed with synthesisers, “Bachelor Kisses” is animated by the same restrained romanticism as Prefab Sprout’s “When Love Breaks Down” (if anything, the demo is even more swoonsome), while “Part Company” – from its quivering emotional urgency down to its intricate, concentric weave of bass, vocal and fluid guitar lines – is a kissing cousin to The Smiths’ “Reel Around The Fountain”.

Parts of Spring Hill Fair point towards the glossier, more measured elegance of the Go-Betweens next phase, bookended by 1986’s Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express and 1988’s 16 Lovers Lane. But that’s another story, for another anthology. For now, Volume One of G Stands For Go-Betweens is a giddy treat, marking the spot where the headlong rush of new beginnings meets the steadying hand of accomplishment.