🎡 Spring Hill Fair (The Go-Betweens)

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.

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  • Aaron Davis

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