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The Go-Betweens

16 Lovers Lane The Go-Betweens

The Go-Betweens Album Reviews

It’s difficult to explain the appeal of The Go-Betweens; Robert Forster and Grant McLennan are neither strikingly talented guitarists nor vocalists. But despite their limitations, 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. Apart from their debut, Send Me A Lullaby, each Go-Betweens album featured precisely five songs from each writer, while most of their albums featured “LL” in the title.

Forster’s described their sound as a hybrid of The Monkees and The Velvet Underground; a good description of the way the group deliver accessible and literate pop songs with an amateur enthusiasm and an adventurous spirit. The group originated in Brisbane, Australia, where Forster and McLennan studied literature, but spent much of the 1980s in England.

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.

I’ve only covered their original albums, but their 1980’s albums were 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 yet 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’.



Ten Favourite Go-Betweens Songs

Bye Bye Pride
That Way
Dive For Your Memory
Darlinghurst Nights
As Long As That
Cattle and Cane
Unkind and Unwise
I Just Get Caught Out
The Wrong Road

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The Go-Betweens Send Me A Lullaby

Send Me A Lullaby – The Go-Betweens

Send Me A Lullaby 1981, 4.5/10 Recorded in Melbourne with the Birthday Party’s producer, Send Me A Lullaby is a … Continue Reading Send Me A Lullaby – The Go-Betweens

The Go-Betweens Before Hollywood

Before Hollywood – The Go-Betweens

1983, 9/10. The Go-Betweens’ second album, and the last the group recorded as a three piece, was their critical breakthrough.

Spring Hill Fair The Go-Betweens

Spring Hill Fair – The Go-Betweens

1984, 7.5/10. The Go-Betweens became a four piece, adding bassist Robert Vickers to the band, with Grant McLennan moving to guitar.

Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express The Go-Betweens

Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express – The Go-Betweens

Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express (1986), 8.5/10 Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express has the same lineup as … Continue Reading Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express – The Go-Betweens

Tallulah The Go-Betweens

Tallulah – The Go-Betweens

1987, 8/10. Classically trained multi-instrumentalist Amanda Brown joined The Go-Betweens for Tallulah, and her skills on violin and oboe make the band more accessible.

16 Lovers Lane The Go-Betweens

16 Lovers Lane – The Go-Betweens

16 Lovers Lane (1988), 10/10 The Go-Betweens had been quietly releasing some very good albums throughout the 1980s, but 16 … Continue Reading 16 Lovers Lane – The Go-Betweens

The Go-Betweens Friends of Rachel Worth

The Friends Of Rachel Worth – The Go-Betweens

The Friends Of Rachel Worth (2000), 6.5/10 Although Robert Forster and Grant McLennan had maintained a friendship and played live … Continue Reading The Friends Of Rachel Worth – The Go-Betweens

The Go-Betweens Bright Yellow Bright Orange

Bright Yellow Bright Orange – The Go-Betweens

2003, 5.5/10. 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.

Oceans Apart The Go-Betweens

Oceans Apart – The Go-Betweens

2005, 8/10. After two worthy, but unspectacular, additions to their canon, The Go-Betweens returned to form on their final album.

Watershed – G. W. McLennan

1991, 6/10 Because Grant McLennan was taught to play and drafted into a band by Robert Forster, he’d never played … Continue Reading Watershed – G. W. McLennan

Fireboy – G.W. McLennan

1993, not rated I don’t have this, and it’s not on Spotify. It’s another Dave Dobbyn produced album; the highlights … Continue Reading Fireboy – G.W. McLennan

Horsebreaker Star – Grant McLennan

1994, 8/10 Grant McLennan’s first two solo albums had their moments, but were too blatant in shooting for the pop … Continue Reading Horsebreaker Star – Grant McLennan

In Your Bright Ray – Grant McLennan

1997, not rated I don’t have this one either, but it’s on Spotify. From the songs on Intermission, it’s the … Continue Reading In Your Bright Ray – Grant McLennan

Intermission – Grant McLennan

2007, 8.5/10 In 2006, the two chief Go-Betweens each compiled 13 of their solo tracks from the 1990s for a … Continue Reading Intermission – Grant McLennan

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