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. McLennan tends to be the more straightforward writer of the pair, while Forster writes more 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 eighties 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 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’.
Ten Favourite Go-Betweens Songs
Bye Bye Pride
Dive For Your Memory
As Long As That
Cattle and Cane
Unkind and Unwise
I Just Get Caught Out
The Wrong Road