GO-BETWEENS Tallulah (Beggars Banquet)
"Tallulah" is the fifth album by this long-gone Brisbane band, perhaps best described as an Antipodean version of The Sundays, with their metropolitan urbanity replaced by a more "Hullo birds! Hullo sky!" sort of attitude - roughly the same musical, if not geographical, territory as 10,000 Maniacs, come to think of it. Released between the wonderful "Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express" (1986) and "16 Lovers Lane" (1988), both of which contain some of the jangliest pop gems you could ever hope to shake a Rickenbacker at, "Tallulah" is, unfortunately, a disappointingly arid listen. Maybe its the fault of Richard Prestons dry-as-dust production, or the heavy subject matter - instead of the lush romanticism of the albums that bookend it chronologically "Tallulah" homes in on tales of deceit, decay and distrust - but for some reason me and this album have yet to click.THE GO-BETWEENS The Friends Of Rachel Worth (Clearspot)
A minor miracle: twelve years after their last album, the core of Australian band The Go-Betweens - singers, guitarists and songwriters Grant McLennan and Robert Forster - have resurrected the ghost of their old band with assistance from the unlikely form of members of Sleater-Kinney and Quasi. And it's pretty much business as usual: five songs apiece from both of the principal duo, the same chiming guitars and melodies that veer towards the other side of predictability, witty insights and unusual subject matter ("German Farmhouse" tells of a few years spent living in the titular building, drinking beer and waiting in vain for a proposed Pavarotti charity gig in a nearby castle; "Surfing Magazines" celebrates the joys of reading guess what, "Some good looking people wearing Lee Cooper jeans Going to get a Kombi and go from beach to beach/Be the kind of people the Authorities can't reach"; "When She Sang About Angels" I've convinced myself is a Patti Smith tribute). And, as is usual with this band, although "The Friends Of Rachel Worth", maddeningly, isn't consistent enough to qualify as a genuine classic, there are enough small moments of insight and minor, quiet gems - in addition to those mentioned above, the sombre introspection of "He Lives My Life" and the jangly, upbeat "Going Blind" are both something special - to suggest that it might be their best album yet. Low of key and lovelier than ever, The Go-Betweens' reformation is arguably one of too few to succeed on a level other than that of rosy nostalgia.
THE GO-BETWEENS Spring Hill Fair (Circus)
The Go-Betweens weren't - and in their recently resurrected configuration, aren't - the kind of band to make too many concessions to the listener. Skated over, their music might sound like just some more sub-Smiths indie guitar jangle, but, like their near-contemporaries Prefab Sprout, time and effort spent with their albums can reap significant dividends. They're Talking Heads reading a map of the human heart, Squeeze's domestic traumas magnified to microscopic detail, Orange Juice's nervous, high-wire vocal acts, immaculate songs of regret and longing with almost zero radio presence.
This lovingly prepared reissue of their third album, "Spring Hill Fair", originally released in 1984, is a case in point. It takes a few plays to slip into the mode of music this understated, but persevere and the key to a world of tear-stained twilit joy is yours. There are moments to make the listener shiver here, for example Grant McLennan's last words to a departing ex-lover on "Bachelor Kisses", "Don't believe what you've heard/"Faithful"'s not a bad word". "Five Words" is a call-and-response survey of the state of modern religion, "The Old Way Out" a mob-handed glam terrace stomp. The exuberant, edgy "Slow, Slow Music" finds McLennan yelling "I got myself a mortgage/It didn't save the marriage" over some warm funk inflections, whilst "Draining The Pool For You" could only have been founded in the bitterness accrued through years wasted in menial jobs. "River Of Money" is a bizarre recitation topped off with cod-Dylan harmonica; the charming "Unkind And Unwise" waltzes off into the sunset with the stage direction "repeat till cicadas join in the fun". The brilliant closer "Man O'Sand To Girl O'Sea" is as frenetic as the band have ever been, bouncing along on bejewelled verses like "Feel so sure of our love/I'll write a song about us breaking up/"The Traffic Lights On The Street Of Love"/Have just turned red".
There's a stout booklet of background notes and lyrics, and a whole extra discful of related rarities, including b-sides, live takes, demos, Peel Sessions and a video. Although obviously not as revealing as the main attraction, space is made for such pleasantness as "Attraction", whose fragmentary phrases suggest a precursor to one of Black Box Recorder's emotional Polaroids, and "Second-Hand Furniture", a painstakingly crafted song bafflingly only ever recorded for Mr Peel. Like most Go-Betweens albums, even in this expanded form "Spring Hill Fair" remains powerful, subtle stuff, and if bookish guitar bands are your bag it's ripe for rediscovery.THE GO-BETWEENS Bright Yellow Bright Orange (Clearspot)
The reunification of Robert Forster and Grant McLennan under the Go-Betweens banner has to be the most artistically satisfying comeback in popular music - after all, they can hardly be in it for the money, having sold very few records in the 1980s and being cursed with a similar level of cult success now. Last time around, 2000's "The Friends Of Rachel Worth" found songwriters/guitarists/vocalists Forster and McLennan supported by Sleater-Kinney and Quasi. Here, backup arrives in the form of multi-instrumentalists Adele Pickvance (also a veteran of that previous album) and Glenn Thompson, with no perceptible deviation from the timeless Go-Betweens sound. "Bright Yellow Bright Orange" is literate, sophisticated, adult guitar pop, pitched somewhere between Prefab Sprout and Yo La Tengo. It's as hard to pick highlights as it is to discern the subject matter of these ten - as ever - songs, but, pointing to an example of each, "Caroline And I" is a apparently a ditty about being born at roughly the same time as Princess Caroline of Monaco, and the remote sense of kinship it engenders, and, if pushed, I'd nominate "Too Much Of One Thing" as my favourite here, an immaculate near six-minute rattling thrum. As ever with this band, this album contains lovely, meticulously crafted music destined to be cruelly ignored by a tin-eared public.