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The Go-Betweens
That Striped Sunlight Sound
Yep Roc Records
www.go-betweens.net


A quick primer for beginners: founders Robert Forster and Grant McLennan started the Go-Betweens as callow students in Brisbane, Australia in 1978, made six albums between then and 1988 that are hailed by many (especially music critics, but that's largely because the band never got the recognition they deserved) as some of the finest music of the 1980s, then called it a day due to a combination of intra-band tension and disillusionment with the music biz. If you've never heard these, the recent compilation Bellavista Terrace is a great introduction to the Go-Betweens' first golden period.

McLennan and Forster spent most of the 90s making a succession of fine solo records (Grant's Watershed and In Your Bright Ray and Robert's Danger in the Past are highly recommended) and playing the occasional show together, before deciding that they owed it to us to reform their stellar songwriting partnership and putting together the Go-Betweens Mark 2 with bassist Adele Pickvance and drummer Glenn Thompson (formerly of Brisbane cult favourites Custard). The first two reunion albums, 2000's The Friends of Rachel Worth and 2003's Bright Yellow Bright Orange, had some transcendent moments but never reached the heights of the original band, feeling more like a collection of solo recordings. However, 2005's Oceans Apart brought back the Go-B's firing on all cylinders, with the band finally sounding like an integrated unit and the two founders contributing a batch of songs that almost matched their 80's glories.

That Striped Sunlight Sound is almost a surfeit of riches, being made up of audio and DVD versions of a Brisbane concert from the 2005 Oceans Apart tour, plus a "storytellers" session where Grant and Robert sit down with acoustic guitars to discuss the history of the band and play some highlights from 1978 right up to the present, and finally some fun clips where audience members from the Brisbane show describe what they love about the Go-B's.

The concert is a great document of the Go-Betweens' ability to win over an audience with engaging stage presence and one swoon-inducing song after another - especially impressive since the set is heavy on Oceans Apart material. After starting with a surprise for fans - Grant takes the stage alone and strums through the engaging, storytelling "Black Mule" from his first solo album Watershed, to be joined by Robert for a moving version of "Clouds" - the rest of the group takes the stage. Suave Thompson's clattering drums and energetic Pickvance's bubbling bass and fine harmonies make the ideal backdrop to Forster and McLennan's alternating vocals and guitar; Grant tends to let the music do the talking, but the DVD is the only way to see what an amazing stage presence Mr. Robert Forster really is. Clad in his usual dapper suit with nary a hair out of place, he commands the audience with a carefully arched eyebrow here and a pointed finger there until the entire audience (this DVD viewer included) is hanging on his every word.

The real gem of this package, though, is the "Acoustic Stories" segment of the DVD. Grant and Robert (accompanied by a black and white dog and a camera crew) )sit down in a sunny Brisbane drawing room to swap memories and songs over the course of an afternoon. The two mens' obvious admiration and affection for each other adds to the heartfelt performances of eleven of their favourite songs, from 1978's "Lee Remick" all the way up to last year's "Finding You", with all the intervening years being well represented, too. Two tracks in particular stand out: an absolutely staggering version of "Bye Bye Pride", with the complex arrangements and oboe from the Tallulah album's studio version being replaced by simple but compelling acoustic interplay and Grant's impassioned, cracked vocals, and an equally moving "Dive for Your Memory" that manages to transcend the original recording from 16 Lover's Lane. Despite having heard the originals (and all manner of live versions) hundreds of times since they were first recorded, I just can't stop playing these !

That Striped Sunlight Sound is essential for anyone with even a passing fondness for the Go-Betweens; it will remind you why they're such an important group and how lucky we are to have them back, and also whet your appetite for the future delights they have in store for us.

-Gareth Bowles

Track List: (Audio CD)
1. Black Mule
2. Clouds
3. Boundary Rider
4. Born to a Family
5. Streets of Your Town
6. Here Comes a City
7. Draining the Pool for You
8. Finding You
9. Spring Rain
10. Was There Anything I Could Do ?
11. Surfing Magazines
12. The Devil's Eye
13. Too Much of One Thing
14. People Say
15. The Clock
16. Karen


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