Saturday, December 22, 2007

Go Betweens - 16 Lovers Lane

Something very special, Ive packed up two records for you here. The magnificent, beautiful and obtuse Go Betweens. We have the original 16 Lovers Lane and the equally impressive Acoustic Demo Tapes. I'm listening to the acoustic side as I'm writing this post. Along with Died Pretty maybe the best band to come out of Australia.

The Go-Betweens were an internationally influential indie rock band from Australia, formed by guitarists Robert Forster and Grant McLennan in Brisbane in 1977.

Early on Robert Forster and Grant McLennan were joined by Lissa Ross (drums 1978) and Tim Mustapha (drums 1978–1979) then, during their "classic" period by Lindy Morrison (drums 1980–1989), Robert Vickers (bass 1983–1987), Amanda Brown (violin, oboe, guitar, backing vocals 1986–1989) and John Willsteed (bass 1987–1989) and, in their reformation, by Glenn Thompson (drums 2002–2006), and Adele Pickvance (bass 2000–2006).

The focal point of the group was the songwriting skills of Forster and McLennan, famously described by Village Voice critic Robert Christgau as "the greatest songwriting partnership working today." Each developed a distinctive but complementary style: Forster's songs were angular and angst-ridden, making much use of irony and unusual lyrical imagery, while McLennan's were generally softer and more sensitive, his lyrics often based on character study and reported speech.

The band's first recordings ("Lee Remick", "Karen" - both 1978 - and "People Say", 1979) were simple pop tunes with a rough New Wave edge, an obvious blend of pure pop influences such as The Monkees with the gritty simplicity of The Velvet Underground. By their first official album, 1982's Send Me A Lullaby, they had developed a subtler sound consisting of dry semi-spoken vocals, complex lyrics and melodic but fractious guitar pop influenced by contemporary bands such as Television, Wire and Talking Heads. In 1979, the group had left Australia, first for Glasgow, where they briefly joined the roster of cult independent label Postcard, then following their friends and contemporaries The Birthday Party to the busier music scene in London. Their second LP Before Hollywood (1983) established the group as cult favourites in the UK, McLennan's "Cattle And Cane" becoming a large hit on the independent charts.

The Go-Betweens spent much of the 80s touring, regularly producing such alternative radio hits as "Spring Rain" (1986) and "Streets of Your Town" (1988), without ever securing a chart single - a fact which mystified their supporters in the press, to the point where this "scandalous" lack of popular success became a cliche when writing about the band. Their albums Spring Hill Fair (1984) and Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express (1986) received particularly strong reviews, and showed the band gradually moving towards a smoother and more contemporary sound, while retaining elements of their idiosyncratic early style. Their later LPs Tallulah (1987) and 16 Lovers Lane (1988) were the group's most commercial offerings yet, though again they failed to trouble the charts. After recording six albums, Forster and McLennan disbanded The Go-Betweens in December 1989.

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