Articles index

1982

In between the Go-Betweens

1982

No shoe shops for Go-Betweens

1982

Send Me A Lullaby (review)

1982

King Trigger / The Go-Betweens

1982

The Gentle Three-Headed Monster

1982

The Go-Betweens / Laughing Clowns

1982

The Go-Betweens: Will this lullaby end their slumber?

1983

Orange Juice / The Go-Betweens

1983

Exiles from the lost Australian Dream

1983

The Smiths / The Go-Betweens

1983

Up From Down Under

1984

Money Can't Buy You Love

1984

Remembrance and Visions of Hope

1986

Stars of the underground

1987

The Go-Betweens

1987

Of Skins and Hearts

1987

Power to imperfect pop

1988

The Go-Betweens

1988

Growing up gracefully

1988

Driving along Lovers Lane

1988

Love Notes

1988

You can go home again

1989

Go-Betweens aim to strike public chord

1989

The Go-Betweens

1989

Inbetween Days

1989

The Go-Betweens

1989

The Go-Betweens

1990

What you call change

1990

A Go-Between goes it alone

1992

Rock de Lux Questions the Go-Betweens Break-up

1992

Forster/McLennan: no Go-Betweens Reunion

1995

The Australian Go-Betweens Show: Forster Interview / Grant McLennan & Robert Forster at The Zoo

1996

Robert Forster, Grant McLennan and the Go-Betweens canon

1996

Gazing On A Sunny Afternoon

1996

The Go-Betweens

1997

Part Company — Again

1997

Interview with Robert Forster

Part Company — Again

Tom Lappin — June 1 1997

Ahh, the tragic beauty of a brilliant band that didn't make it big. But hark, is that the Go-Betweens on a comeback?

SOMETIMES the gold dust slips between the cracks. The "critics' band is something of a music business cliche, usually denoting a bunch of indulgent goateed Californians, constructing sound collages out of white noise and the sampled voice of Jeffrey Dahmer, rightly ignored by the consumers and left to languish in music-press end-of-year writers' polls.

Occasionally, though, a group comes along, releases a few records that are reviewed using every superlative in the dictionary, yet by some combination of fashion and market weirdness, fail to sell their genius to the public, lost forever in a kind of half-life, patently brilliant yet lacking the chart positions and platinum discs to prove it empirically.

The best example of such a phenomenon is The Go-Betweens, an Australian group that released six albums in the Eighties, records that by any standards featured the finest lyrical guitar-pop of that decade (Smiths included). Yet The Go-Betweens were destined never to trouble pop's statisticians, their effortlessly melodic records accumulating review stars by the shipload, yet remaining unbought in the record racks. Frustrated by the lack of a commercial breakthrough, they broke up at the end of 1989.

The reasons were legion. Notably, the group lacked a frontman as their focus, boasting instead two singer songwriters in Grant McLennan and Robert Forster, with contrasting styles.

The two met at film school in 1976, the only students who could match each other's ego and confidence. They started a band. McLennan was the group's McCartney, his pop sensibility filtered through an adoration of Dylan and The Byrds, Forster its Lennon, an angular sarcastic lyricist with a fondness for Talking Heads and American art rock. The Go--Betweens' musical differences were apparent from the outset, yet the writers complemented each other, preventing the group from ever succumbing to Forster's penchant for rock-star indulgence or the McLennan tendency to harmonic sweetness.

It's another cliche, but they were a group ahead of their time. You suspect that through the 90s Forster and McLennan would have had to regularly suppress a few thoughts of what might have been when they saw the success of Crowded House, peddling a diluted version of The Go-Betweens' melodic pop, or the rise of their contemporaries REM — with whom The Go-Betweens played regularly in the Eighties — to world domination, or the sudden global welcome for hitherto underground guitar-pop. Instead they have to be content with the acknowledgments of the new generation of bands, continued critical reverence, and a back-catalogue that sparkles with three-minute masterpieces.

Oh, and now maybe the acclaim of a few discerning live audiences. For Forster and McLennan are back together, The Go-Betweens are performing again. It's not a full-scale reformation, not a case of sad old lags trying to revive the days when they were creative, not even a Sex Pistols-style cash-in. It's just a series of gigs in Europe, a quiet acknowledgment of the 20-year anniversary of their formation, a chance to play the old songs again, before Forster and McLennan return to their prolific, if still cultish, solo careers.

Over in Brisbane, McLennan is packing his bags for the trip to Europe, whistling the tricky middle-eight to Bye Bye Pride, and musing on being a Go-Between once more.

"Robert and I started the group in December 1977, so there is that 20-year thing," he says. "And well, I'm probably a bit more sentimental than him. Last year Beggar's Banquet re-released all the records, and that stirred up more interest, so we wanted to do something that would bring it to a dignified end."

Twelve thousand miles and 20 hours away Robert Forster is sitting in the kitchen of his Bavarian farmhouse fingering the guitar solo from Part Company.

"Something bigger might come out of it," he says, "but we're just going to see what happens. At the moment I'm just accepting it as an opportunity to play with Grant again, revisit some great old songs and float about Europe in June."

Forster says the set-list he and McLennan have put together, drawn from the full Go-Betweens canon, "sounds like 15 hit singles," — but the poignant fact is that none of the songs charted.

"The songs still sound so strong, but given the climate of the time, it wasn't to be our fate," he says. "I don't have a great feeling of bitterness about it or anything. If I'd have felt that strongly about it, then I'd have probably hid myself away from the world in shame when the group finished."

"The records continue to live," says McLennan. "I have no regrets about The Go-Betweens breaking up or anything to do with them. I've got the records, I've got friendships, I've got my memories, and over time you get a different perspective on these things."

The group's split in 1989 wasn't acrimonious, Forster and McLennan never being rivals for control of the group. They kept in touch in the interim, even writing a film script together — "It's in the hands of some Hollywood people," says McLennan, "and I'm not making that up!"

They're looking forward to their Glasgow show on June 6, remembering that when they first arrived in Britain from Brisbane in 1981, it was Alan Horne's Glasgow-based Postcard Records who gave them their first outlet, releasing the single I Need Two Heads and giving them instant entry to the coolest roster around at the time.

Expect an audience liberally studded with Glasgow's 30-something rock survivors.

"We have rehearsed," McLennan emphasises. "Make sure you put that in."

The Go-Betweens are back, and they've rehearsed.