52 albums – week 37

What an odd couple they were this pair of Brisbane lads, Robert Forster & Grant McLennan, the nucleus of The Go-Betweens.

Robert was the tall, imposing one. Debonair, suave and devilishly handsome with strong, chiseled features. A profile like that of a Roman Senator etched out in marble. He was always impeccably dressed and reminded me of a modern day version of  Oscar Wilde.
A wonderfully contrived figure, full of artifice but not pretension. He just seemed to revel in the whole theatricality of the ‘Pop’ circus.
Grant was the more reserved half of the partnership. Less forthcoming and more guarded. I’m sure he would have hated to hear it but there was a palpable sense of loss surrounding him. His father died when he was still a child and on the album Before Hollywood, he drew from that well to pen a song, a lament really, that is so raw and honest that it’s almost painful to listen too. I always thought it was as straight a connection as it is possible for a song to make – there’s nothing in between you and that loss.


Somewhere along the line I read an article about the band that made a passing reference to the Go-betweens eccentricities. For years I thought it was Robert who was the quirky one, the one out of step with the 20th Century but in reality it was Grant who eschewed a lot of the trappings of polite society. No mobile phone, No ATM card. An auteurs disdain for the business of modern life – a real man out of his time.

The Go-Betweens were one of the few bands I’ve followed right from the beginning. I was still living in Townsville and my first girl-friend Jahne had just come back from a family holiday laden with records. In amongst them was Send Me A Lullaby which was their 1981 debut album. Wet behind the ears though I was, even I could recognise this as something special. Which it was and as history as proved, they were too.
A lot of people were nonplussed that the Go-Betweens never managed to cross that bridge over to commercial success but does it matter? A part of me thinks that they would have been a little to fragile to survive under that harsh light. Could they have weathered it? How would it have changed them? Who knows? It’s a moot point now anyway. They split in 1989, reformed in 2000 and showed flashes of their old grace when they released Oceans Apart but it all ground to a halt with Grants untimely death in 2006. Much as there is worthwhile stuff on their later records it is those first six or seven albums that are where there legacy lie.

So getting to this particular album. Robert and Grant were quick to put out solo work when they parted company. Danger In The Past was Roberts first offering and is probably my favorite of the individual albums of theirs that I’ve heard. It’s a lovely record. Full of wry wit and self depreciating humor. It seems to encapsulate the full gamut of his magnificent song writing talents.
There’s the angular pop of tracks like Heart Out To Tender.
The melancholic resignation in Is This What You Call Change. A song that I think is all the more special for the faint intimations, the little flashes of anger that are sprinkled throughout the song. It gives it sharp little teeth.


Justice
is another song to listen out for. It’s beautiful. Heartful and Heartfelt, a modern-day ‘Ode to Joy’.
While Baby Stones:


is just a gorgeous slice of specialness that makes me smile every time I hear it. I love the film clip for it too, it looks like an old episode of Sons and Daughters.
This is what country music can sound like when it finds its way into a pair of sympathetic hands.

It’s a ‘slow’ album, gracious and dignified. I hope it finds a home on your C.D carousel.

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