Sheesh, those last two posts felt like I was knitting with spaghetti. I just do not want to write anything about talented people I admire if I am not going to do it right so…Any road up, no great insight in these next ones, just some music that I find most agreeable. This is the Go Betweens.
The equal second best Australian band ever. After Nick Cave in his various representations I find it impossible to slide a cigarette paper between the Go Betweens and the similarly poptastic Easybeats. I am sure that, as folk of discernment, you have your own alternatives to this hierarchy…talk to the hand..
The Go Betweens were essentially Robert Forster and Grant McLennan, Other members made noteworthy contributions but these two wrote the songs and stayed the course. They were Brisbane punks in 1978, they were post-punk (weren’t we all ?) by the time they came to the UK in 1983. Lindy Morrison was now the drummer and McLennan was still playing bass. They released their second LP “Before Hollywood”, “Cattle and Cane”, a wistful remembrance of a Queensland childhood, a distinctive tempo and an elegant chiming arrangement, deserves it’s recognition as an 80s pop classic. At the time…not a sausage.
The band recorded four more LPs in the 1980s, The singles released were often the more obvious up-tempo songs, promotional videos were made and not one of their 45s got into the charts in Australia, the UK or the USA. There must have been some good music around at this time because the Go Betweens were establishing their quality with each successive record
For 1987’s “Tallulah” the band had been joined by multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Amanda Brown. The productions were little more polished, some of the edges smoothed away. This was supposed to be a “breakthrough” record but it wasn’t. The writing partnership of Forster and McLennan was getting stronger, the songs more focused. “Bye Bye Pride” is another radio-friendly, almost-anthem, seriously gorgeous pop song. Am I missing something here ?
In the next year the Go Betweens gave it one last shot with the LP “16 Lovers Lane”.
There’s a word that is banned from this blog. Everybody and his/her cat who writes these things bleats about how stuff they like is not liked by more people. Since I have been online the word “underrated” has lost any resonance. Get over yourself pussycat. BUT…I listened to the Go Betweens develop a confident , more finely crafted style and enjoyed some of the best pop music of the decade. Music which still sounds great today because that is what the best pop music is, timeless. I return to records that I bought and liked from the 1980s and don’t find that same quality. I am reluctant to name them but Prefab Sprout, Aztec Camera, Scritti Politti and others, I am pointing at you.
I read somewhere that the band were aiming for a the pop sensibility of the Monkees crossed with the Velvet Underground but it’s no good singing that because it doesn’t rhyme. In the video for “Was there Anything I Could Do” the band may just have stopped treating these things seriously. They look good and even the fey, rather awkward Robert Forster looks to be having fun. Maybe they should have released the more personal, less obvious but still rich and sharp songs. Whatever, the best of the Go Betweens is a very classy collection.
In 1989 the group disbanded and went on to solo projects. It would be 12 years before there was another Go Betweens record and there were a few of us who were pleased that they were back.
Very good, I haven´t listened to enough of these guys. I´ve meant to check out the albums. I had one while making my way through classic albums, but can´t remember what it was called. Sounds like I´m missing out.
Thanks for writing this. I really got into the Go Betweens with Tallulah. I listened to that one over and over again. Forster and McLennan had a great synergy.
Tonight we have been remembering Fontella Bass who has died today. As a F-book friend of a F-book friend, Craig Leon the producer of “Tallulah” (and the 1st LPs by the Ramones & Blondie) showed up on my Facebook ! If the Internet is making the world smaller then I’m all for it.
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