Grant McLennan’s first two solo albums had their moments, but were too blatant in shooting for the pop jugular, and too saccharine without the more acerbic Robert Forster to balance him. For his third album, McLennan travelled to Athens, Georgia, and recorded a 24 song double album with country flavours. A single disc American edition with 18 of the songs, and with ‘Lighting Fires’ from Fireboy added as a bonus track, also exists. The more relaxed, and less desperate for a hit, approach, works well for McLennan – Horsebreaker Star is a terrific album where the most problematic issue is that it’s a little homogeneous and overlong – the second disc drags in the middle until ‘Girl in a Beret’ snaps it out of its stupor.
While I’d otherwise be content with the Intermission compilation as a summary of McLennan’s solo career, there are terrific songs that aren’t covered on here. Opener ‘Simone and Perry’ is an effortlessly hooky song, while there’s a gorgeous cover of The Byrds’ ‘The Ballad of Easy Rider’ that suits McLennan’s warm voice. ‘What Went Wrong’ has such an engaging hook and stack of lyrics that I barely notice the eight minute running time, while ‘I’ll Call You Wild’ adds an insistent pulse behind its beauty. There are so many pretty, well constructed slow songs that it’s the fast material that stands out; ‘Girl In A Beret’ has power pop punch, while McLennan is sincere enough to pull off the duet of ‘All Her Songs’.
It can be a little overwhelming with little stylistic variation and a lot of slow songs, but Horsebreaker Star is a treasure chest show-casing Grant McLennan’s song-writing.