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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 in another context apart from the Go-Betweens before they split. After releasing an album with The Church’s Steve Kilbey as Jack Frost, McLennan used New Zealand’s Dave Dobbyn as producer for his first solo record, while Amanda Brown and singer/songwriter Paul Kelly are among other contributors. Recorded in September and October 1990, Watershed is one of those 1991 albums that escaped the influence of Nevermind, instead following the lush, full arrangements of the recent Go-Betweens records. Without Forster’s harder edged, artier compositions and abrasive rhythm guitar to provide balance, Watershed treads into saccharine territory and it’s clearly more lightweight than the Go-Between’s catalogue.

For a hypothetical 1991 Go-Betweens’ album, the five McLennan songs could be the folkish ‘Black Mule’, the elegant closing ‘Dream About Tomorrow’, with its pretty string break, and the trio of ‘When Word Gets Around’, ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’, and ‘Haven’t I Been a Fool’, which all showcase McLennan’s casual melodies built around acoustic guitar strums.

Watershed is a disappointment after a great run of albums with The Go-Betweens – it’s straightforward and predictable – but if you’re a fan of McLennan’s humane, hummable songs, it’s worth hearing the highlights.

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