Listened Write Your Adventures Down (A Tribute To The Go-Betweens) from

Tribute album to The Go-Betweens

Disc 1 recorded February and March 2007 at Sony BMG Music Studios, East Sydney

Limited edition version featuring bonus disc of live tracks performed at Triple J’s Tribute To The Go-Betweens concert; held at the Tivoli, Brisbane; November 30 2006.

Finishing off my Go-Betweens experience, I found a copy of the tribute album recorded after Grant McLellan’s death on eBay. I remember seeing it at the time, but never bought it. I like Bernard Zuel’s point that it highlights how good The Go-Betweens were.

This is a reminder of how good, and unconventional, the Go-Betweens were as songwriters (it would be good if fans of these younger artists went on to discover the originals). Plus, there are good versions here: Patience Hodgson from the Grates has the teenage energy Robert Forster originally displayed on Lee Remick; Youth Group capture the right tone of weariness of Grant McLennan’s Dusty In Here; and Glenn Richards of Augie March gets the edge of anxiety Forster gave to the fabulous House That Jack Kerouac Built.

I felt that the album highlights the legacy left by the band. Some cover albums can highlight how dated the music has become. However, although this albums plays it somewhat safe, it feels like their music could have been released now. Here I am reminded of Walter Benjamin’s discussion of the task of the translator.

The task of the translator consists in finding that intended effect [ Intention ] upon the language into which he is translating which produces in it the echo of the original. This is a feature of translation which basically differentiates it from the poet’s work, because the effort of the latter is never directed at the language as such, at its totality, but solely and immediately at specific linguistic contextual aspects. Unlike a work of literature, translation does not find itself in the center of the language forest but on the outside facing the wooded ridge; it calls into it without entering, aiming at that single spot where the echo is able to give, in its own language, the reverberation of the work in the alien one. Not only does the aim of translation differ from that of a literary work-it intends language as a whole, taking an individual work in an alien language as a point of departure but it is a different effort altogether. The intention of the poet is spontaneous, primary, graphic; that of the translator is derivative, [76] ultimate, ideational. For the great motif of integrating many tongues into one true language is at work. This language is one in which the independent sentences, works of literature, critical judgments, will never communicate – for they remain dependent on translation; but in it the languages themselves, supplemented and reconciled in their mode of signification, harmonize.

With this in mind, I wonder what a tribute album might sound like today? Other than Jen Cloher and Laura Jean, I wonder what other artists might be a part of the bill?

Listened Oceans Apart by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Oceans Apart is the ninth and final studio album by The Go-Betweens, released in 2005. All the songs were written by Grant McLennan and Robert Forster. The album was recorded at the Good Luck Studios in London between November 2004 through to January 2005, except for “Boundary Rider” which was recorded at The White Room Recording Studio in Brisbane.

I always remember Oceans Apart, it did win an Aria, but I am not sure I ever heard it in full at the time it was released. I certainly never owned it. Listening now, it represents a classic Go-Betweens album, with a contrast between Robert Forster’s spritely upbeat tracks set-up in contrast with Grant McLennan’s dreamy pop. Although the band reunited with producer Mark Wallis, for me this album does not quite match the completeness of 16 Lovers Lane. I wonder if it misses the ‘Go-Betweens drama’ as Amanda Brown has put it or if a part of this disappointment is my own listening? I am going to assume the later. I think once I got over that I found that the hooks and melodies to be quite infectious. I also found the use of programmed beats and synthesisers worked, which seems ironic at time with how much the rallied against some of this in the 80’s.
Listened album by The Go-Betweens by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Bright Yellow Bright Orange is the eighth album by Australian indie rock group The Go-Betweens, released in February 2003 on the Trifekta Records label. It was nominated at the 2003 ARIA Music Awards for Best Adult Contemporary Album, but lost to John Farnham for The Last Time.

Bright Yellow Bright Orange moves away from the rawness of The Friends of Rachel Worth to cut back to a more acoustic sound. Although not new, with 16 Lovers Lane being a heavily acoustic, this album is more stripped back about this album.

Bright Yellow Bright Orange is a perfect example of how guitar pop can sound when stripped of shallow musings and regurgitated anthemics.

The post-punk charge that found its way into some of the band’s early recordings is all but gone; the band focuses almost all of Bright Yellow Bright Orange (their eighth full-length) on their acoustic, folk-inflected side.

It may not be as quirky as the 1980’s but it is has an accentuated, intense beauty.

Listened album by The Go-Betweens by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

The Friends of Rachel Worth is the seventh album by Brisbane indie band The Go-Betweens, released 12 years after their sixth, 16 Lovers Lane. For this album, Robert Forster and Grant McLennan were joined by all members of American indie rock bands Sleater-Kinney and Quasi as well as new bassist Adele Pickvance. The album was recorded in Portland, Oregon at Jackpot! Recording Studio by Larry Crane.

McLennan said, “Rachel felt really natural – it wasn’t like Robert and I had separate managers or any of that industry bullshit. We’d always wanted to record in America, too, so that was a real dream. I think it has a really mysterious, otherworldly, ‘lost’ feel to it.”

Listening to The Friends of Rachel Worth, I am left thinking that any sort of follow-up to 16 Lovers Lane is going to be something of a come down. I think Pitchfork captures this dilemma in suggesting that the album feels like a ‘relic of another era’.

The Friends of Rachel Worth comes off as a relic of another era. New generations of Aussie pop bands have emerged since those early days

I remember listening to an interview about David Byrne’s album with St. Vincent, in which he talked about thinking about first space the music would be performed when writing the music. This album feels like music written for smaller spaces. For me, this particularly comes through in the way that the vocals have been recorded, they always feel close. There is also something raw about the sound and feel that reminded me in part of their first album Send Me a Lullaby, but still the precision of their later work.

The result is an album that combines the rawness of early recordings with the spare and pristine emotion of the band’s later material

Although there are explorations and extension of their sound, with synths, strings and distortion, gone are the layers of production.

Listened album by The Go-Betweens by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

16 Lovers Lane is the sixth album by Australian indie rock group The Go-Betweens, released in 1988 by Beggars Banquet Records. Prior to the recording of the album, longtime bassist Robert Vickers left the band when the other group members decided to return to Australia after having spent several years in London, England; he was replaced by John Willsteed. The album was recorded at Studios 301 in Sydney, between Christmas 1987 and Autumn 1988.

16 Lovers Lane was the final release from the original version of the band. The Go-Betweens broke up in 1989 and would produce no other material until Grant McLennan and Robert Forster reformed the band, with a completely different line-up of personnel, in 2000.

I doubt that it is any surprise that 16 Lovers Lane is my favourite Go-Betweens album. It was meant to be there breakout with a big push from the record companies. I am not sure what makes the album click, maybe it is the influence of multi-instrumentalist Amanda Brown, the addition of John Willsteed on bass and guitar, the impact of big-name producer Mark Wallis, or the natural progression of time and technology? One thing that stands out to me is the consistent sound throughout. Gone is Tallulah’s experimentation with the funk grooves or distortion, this is instead replaced with the acoustic guitar that beds much of the album. Although it is heavily produced, leading to some songs being difficult to reproduce live, it still feels more subtle and subdued than say Spring Hill Fair. All in all, I feel that you can easily listen to their previous albums with an feeling that each provided its own piece of the puzzle to allow this album.

One thing to note is that a little bit like Before Hollywood, it is interesting listening to Streets of Your Town. Although it fits with the acoustic vibe of the album, it jumps out like a familiar landmark during a long drive. Even though the lyrical content is dark:

Don’t the sun look good today,

but the rain is on its way

Watch the butcher shine his knives,

and this town is full of battered wives

In some ways it almost feels too upbeat, neither fast nor slow, almost joyful compared to the rest of the album.

For me, one of the interesting things about the album is the legacy. I grew up seeing Cattle and Cane and Streets of Your Town late at night on Rage, however I never really knew anyone who actually listened to The Go-Betweens. It was not really until their second coming that I really went beyond the singles.


That Record Got Me High podcast explore some of the connections between Bob Dylan and The Velvet Underground.

SBS Classic Albums – 16 Lovers Lane provides some useful insight and context to the album and The Go-Betweens in general.

Listened album by The Go-Betweens by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Tallulah is the fifth album by The Go-Betweens. It was released in May 1987 in the UK on Beggars Banquet Records. Prior to the recording of the album, the group had expanded to a five-piece with the addition of multi-instrumentalist Amanda Brown. The original release consisted of ten songs. In 2004, LO-MAX Records released an expanded CD which included a second disc of ten bonus tracks and music videos for the songs, “Right Here” and “Bye Bye Pride”.

Robert Forster stated that with Amanda Brown, that the band sounded like no other. Although I agree with this, I am not always sure that it always works with Tallulah. Unlike the experimentation of their earlier albums (Send Me a Lullaby and Before Hollywood), it feels like the experimentation on Tallulah was in sound and texture. For example strings are placed front and center in The House That Jack Kerouac Built and Right Here, the funk groove of Cut It Out is like no other, Hope Then Strife introduces the spanish guitar, Spirit of a Vampyre introduces the distorted guitar, while Bye Bye Pride brings in the Oboe.

In part I can see how this can be seen as a search for the right formula, but for me it all feels like a ‘what if’ album, what if there was a new multi instrumentalist in Amanda Brown? Andrew Stafford explains the school of thought that ‘every second album was better than its predecessor’:

Among fans of the Go-Betweens, there’s a school of thought that every second album they made was better than its predecessor: the first exploring a style, the second perfecting it, before they would immediately move on to a new form. In this way, the Go-Betweens’ parameters kept expanding, like Chinese boxes.

Listened Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express (The Go-Betweens) by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express, the fourth album by The Go-Betweens, was released in March 1986 in the UK on Beggars Banquet Records, the record label that would release the remainder of the original group’s LPs through their break-up in 1989. The album was recorded at Berry Street Studios in London, England.

Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express is often heralded as a favourite album. Gone is the technological experimentation tinkered with in Spring Hill Fair, what remains is a consistent bright sound and feel produced using a more organic approach. As Robert Forster explains in Grant and I:

The production credit for Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express (what a wonderfully pretentious title) was going to read, ‘The Go-Betweens and Richard Preston’. There’d be no drum machines, no piecemeal recording, no acquiescence to a higher authority – we were experienced enough in the studio, and flying on the strength of our demoed songs and Richard’s easy, collaborative ways. Our intention was to expand upon the crisp, woody sound of Before Hollywood, to include a grander, more exotic range of instrumentation – vibraphone, oboe, piano accordion, and, at Grant’s suggestion and to my apprehension, a string section. But he was right; we were making music and living lives that demanded strings. And we had a crack rhythm section, with Robert’s swinging melodic bass and Lindy’s signature rolls and fills, inventive and sturdy under every song.

I found it one of that albums where after a few listens each tune sticks in your head. It marks a real progression in Forster and McLennan’s writing, although it may simply be a reflection of their movement away from experimental song writing to more standard 4/4 song structures.

Grant McLennan: There was quite a fundamental musical change in the band, towards simplification. Something we’ve been accused of in the past, of being almost a pop band, almost an art band, you know, now we’re simplifying. Thinking more of 4/4.

I really like how Clinton Walker captured in back in 1986:

That the Go-Betweens’ language is unlike anyone else’s in rock is undeniable; now, it is totally at ease with itself, stepping out boldly. Deceptively simple pop songs contain a whole world. Even if this isn’t the album that will provide the Go-Betweens with a real breakthrough, it will certainly pave the way. It is in itself an assertion of a right to life.

What is interesting is that even though this album moves away from the precision provided by programmed beats and synthesisers, the sounds is still very tight. With the development of their sound, it feels like the bass and drums have found their place providing a base for the jangly guitars. I was left wondering how the album might have sounded differently if say John Brand had produced it?

On a side note, Tracey Thorn reflects upon Head Full of Steam in her book on Lindy Morrison:

Years later, when their relationship is shattering and dissolving, he will write a song called ‘Head Full of Steam’, and when they play it live on UK television on The Old Grey Whistle Test, he’s added a few lines that don’t appear on the album version: ‘Steam may rise / Steam may tear / Can I come to your place / Can I wash your hair.’ At the time, Lindy tells me those lines refer to an actual event, which is precious in both their memories, and I feel in possession of secret information, privy to the background details which make up the vivid story of this song. — LOCATION 425

Listened Spring Hill Fair (The Go-Betweens) by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Spring Hill Fair is The Go-Betweens’ third album, released on 27 September 1984 in the UK on Sire Records. The LP was recorded during a “very wet May”[1] at Studio Miraval in Le Val, France. Prior to the recording of the album, bass player Robert Vickers had joined the group, enabling Grant McLennan to move to lead guitar. The original release consisted of ten songs. In 2002, Circus released an expanded CD which included a second disc of ten bonus tracks and a music video for the song, “Bachelor Kisses”.

Spring Hill Fair continues to develop The Go-Betweens towards the jingle-jangle sound that I associate them with. Gone is the contrast between fast and slow of their early albums. This is replaced with the attempt at a slicker pop sound, with the introduction of synthesizers and drum machines. However, they could not completely shake this earlier sound.

In the end, Spring Hill Fair feels like a searching album. I have read criticisms of John Brand, the producer of Before Hollywood, and the way in which he wanted to make a ‘proper album’. Some tracks feel honed, such as the singles Bachelor Kisses and Man O’Sand to Girl O’Sea, while other tracks still feel raw, such as Five Words and River of Money.

Wikipedia has a good collection of responses to the album:

Clinton Walker, writing in The Age newspaper, felt “the album as a whole was disappointing, disjointed and uneven.”[27] Helen FitzGerald was more enthusiastic in her review for Melody Maker, writing, “There’s an endearing imperfection to this record, but it’s a calculation of style rather than incompetence of design. In places, the vocals quaver dangerously as out-of-focus love songs paint a picture of the kind of melancholia that’s impossible to forge.” The songs were compared to sepia-toned photographs.[28] Biba Kopf of NME said, “It would be silly to pretend the Go-Betweens are a sparkling fun experience – they are sometimes excessively sombre, verging on sobriety. They don’t make for the easiest of entries, but the pleasures and rewards are longer lasting.”[29] NME ranked Spring Hill Fair at number 11 among the “Albums of the Year” for 1984.[30] In 1996, Robert Christgau of The Village Voice gave the album an “A” rating.[26]

With this album, maybe like the classic Beatles debate between Lennon and McCartney, I felt myself becoming more engaged with McLennan’s tracks, rather than Foster’s.

Listened album by The Go-Betweens by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.
I was listening to The J Files on Cocteau Twins the other day and Robin Guthrie spoke about the influence of The Birthday Party. They played a few gigs together and were a part of getting them a start with 4AD. The Go-Betweens were similar in that vein. Although it can be easy to go looking for associations and inspiration, what seems at play at the time is the punk ethos.

There are two things that stand out for me about The Go-Betweens second album Before Hollywood. Firstly, the addition of the piano and organ to there sound. I think it is significant that the organ comes in early in the opening track A Bad Debt Follows You. This sets the tone for me for the rest of the album.

The second thing was the contrast in intensity throughout the tracks. One minute there is an urgency, then there is not. Even with this though, there is always a hook pulling you back in.

In a review from the time, Clinton Walker argues that Before Hollywood is a ‘more complete’ album.

Where Send Me a Lullaby was fragile and occasionally faltering, yet still possessed of an uplifting resonance, Before Hollywood is a more complete album. Endearing as their vulnerability was, the Go-Betweens now play with confidence and solidity, though still with an edge . . . [here] they offer ten deceptively simple pop songs that pack an emotional impact just below a skin of finely wrought and realised melody and rhythmic attack.Page 209

It was interesting listening to this album as I grew up watching Cattle and Cane on Rage late at night, but did not really know any of the other tracks. On Cattle and Cane, I love the story about how McLellan used Nick Cave’s guitar and stole it’s only tune:

The album’s centrepiece, Grant’s ‘Cattle & Cane’, was a song born of a certain homesickness/nostalgia, and written on a guitar owned by Nick Cave. ‘So that’s why I could never write anything on it,’ Nick later complained. ‘Did I steal its only tune?’ Grant apologised. ‘I’ll give you a credit next time I see my publisher.’ Page 180

Listened album by The Go-Betweens by Contributors to Wikimedia projects from Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Send Me a Lullaby is The Go-Betweens’ debut album. It was released in November 1981 in Australia on Missing Link as an eight-track mini-album. It was subsequently released in the UK on Rough Trade Records, an independent music record label (Missing Link’s UK distributors) in February 1982, as a 12-track album.

Send Me a Lullaby is The Go-Betweens first album recorded in November 1981 with the help of Tony Cohen. It is interesting going to an artists early work and listening afresh. All in all it is an album that feels like it is trying to find itself. One minute there are jangley hooks that I could imagine coming up in a Talking Heads album, then there is a track like Eight Pictures which I could imagine Dave McComb brooding to.

The band’s first official album, Send Me a Lullaby, produced by The Go-Betweens and Tony Cohen, on Missing Link in Australia, was released as an eight-track mini-album in November 1981.[1] Missing Link’s UK distributors, Rough Trade, released the album in the UK, three months later, with four tracks added.[2][5] Morrison provided the album title, in preference to Two Wimps and a Witch, from a Zelda Fitzgerald novel Save Me the Waltz.[8] The group 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. Australian rock music historian, Ian McFarlane, described the album as “tentative and clumsy [with] its brittle, rough-hewn sound”.[2]

Andrew Stafford explains that it is very much reflection of the times.

Released in 1981, it now sounds very much of its time: jerky, influenced by all sorts of even jerkier-sounding British post-punk bands like Gang of Four, the Raincoats and the Slits.

It was interesting to read Robert Forster’s reflection in Clinton Walker’s Stranded:

Robert Forster: I think it’s really important, especially in Australia, that we’re seen as feminine in opposition to the across-the-board masculinity of Australian bands. But you see, I see the Birthday Party as feminine too.

I find it hard to imagine a world where The Go-Betweens are hand-in-hand with The Birthday Party.