The Friends Of Rachel Worth
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 Morrison and 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 relatively firm 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 – while the group rock hard on Forster’s riff-fest ‘German Farmhouse’, it can be problematic on some of the acoustic tracks which are more monotonous than necessary. Still, The Friends Of Rachel Worth is a respectable comeback effort; Forster and McLennan complement and balance each other nicely, and are more effective working in tandem than individually. 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.