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The Go-Betweens were (and arguably are) a band from Australia, who later spent many years in London. They were perennial critical favorites and a resounding commercial failure.

They started in 1978 as a three-piece: Robert Forster played guitar and sang, Grant McLennan played bass and sang a little bit, and Lindy Morrison (a chick) played drums. Over the years, they grew into a five-piece. They picked up a bass player named Robert Vickers along the way and McLennan switched to guitar. Finally they acquired Amanda Brown, who played oboe and violin, and sang. Ms. Brown played on the last two albums they made in their original incarnation. They wrapped that life up, in debt and out of luck, in 1989. years passed. Mr. Forster and Mr. McLennan, each riding high on a series of failed solo albums, reconvened in 2000 to release an album of new material with a rhythm section borrowed from Sleater-Kinney or some such monstrosity. It's a fine record, though. I hope it broke even.

As the years passed, Mr. Forster drifted out of the foreground and Mr. McLennan bloomed. It's as McLennan's band that they'll ultimately be remembered, I think. He was the better song writer, and their albums improved as he began writing more. He's a more interesting singer, too. It's difficult for a very tall man like Robert Forster to defer to a shrimp like McLennan, but he has for the most part done it gracefully.

They never turned their guitars up very much. You can't really those early records "pop" (in the record collector sense, not the Britney Spears sense) or "folk-rock" because they were too weird. In those days, they were awkward, and they wrote and played "difficult", angular songs. It's hard stuff to get a handle on. I've got Before Hollywood, and in spite of an occasional listen over the past few years, it still hasn't grown on me.

Their what you might call "middle period" was sweet, though: Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express is a beautiful record, and Tallulah is stunning. You could call those albums "folk-rock", or anything you like.

The great trick that the Go-Betweens always had was that they wrote songs by and for grown-ups. Of course they could be self-pitying and childish at times; they were, after all, musicians. But at the end of the day, they always had something to offer like "The Ghost in the Black Hat":

The gravedigger's work is almost done
A hole in the ground spits dirt at the sun
The water tank is dirty and dry
Dust from the creek covers the sky

When you pull rock lyrics out of the water, they gasp and flop a little bit. Those obvious rhymes are less onerous when sung.


  1. Send Me a Lullabye (1982)
  2. Before Hollywood (1983)
  3. Spring Hill Fair (1984)
  4. Metal and Shells (1985) (previously released non-LP odds'n'ends)
  5. Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express (1986)
  6. Tallulah (1987)
  7. 16 Lovers Lane (1988)
  8. The Friends of Rachel Worth (2000)
Oft-referred to as "Australia's Velvet Underground", this Brisbane pop band existed from 1977 until their semi-acrimonious split in 1988, subsequent to the release of their 6th album "16 Lovers Lane".

Formed around the core of songwriters Robert Forster and Grant McLennan, they also included (at various times) drummer Lindy Morrison, bassist Robert Vickers and multi-instrumentalist Amanda Brown. Less well-known members include their original drummer Tim (Temucin) Mustafa and Robert Vickers' replacement on 16 Lovers Lane John Willsteed.

Grant and Robert reunited to record a new album under the Go Betweens moniker, helped out by members of Sleater-Kinney and Quasi.

Albums: Send Me A Lullaby (1982), Before Hollywood (1983), Spring Hill Fair (1984), Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express (1986), Tallulah (1987), 16 Lovers Lane (1988), The Friends Of Rachel Worth (2000)

It's difficult to choose an album to start with, because the later, slicker albums are starkly different to the angularity of parts of the early records, which however reward with persistence. I would personally recommend buying 16 Lovers Lane and Before Hollywood at the same time and playing them in a multi-CD deck on random.

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