Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Just like Spring rain

Today marks two years since we lost Grant McLennan, and two weeks since the release of Robert Forster's latest solo album The Evangelist.

The album has three songs co-written McLennan before he died and instrumental backing by Go-Betweens bassist Adele Pickvance and drummer Glenn Thompson, so it's like tribute tribute to Grant McLennan by his former bandmates. Here's Forster's description of the album in his own words.
It's 10 songs long and is my first solo album in 11 years. In May 2006 Grant McLennan, my song writing partner died, bringing to an end The Go-Betweens. I wasn't sure if I was ever going to make another record but this summer it just materialized. It's a direct record. I've written seven of the songs, and three are co-written with Grant. Adele and Glenn from The Go-Betweens are with me. It's not Oceans Apart 2 - it's something else, but with trails going into the past and I'm proud of it.

Robert Christgau said in his NPR review of The Evangelist that "The impolite truth is that Robert Forster was The Go-Between's lesser half", but the actual impolite truth is that Robert Christgau doesn't know what the hell he's talking about (and doesn't know proper apostrophe usage either -- "Go Between's" wtf?). The Go-Betweens were very much an equal partnership. Robert was darker and more cerebral Lennon to Grant's poppier and more conventional McCartney, but there was no greater or lesser half.

I agree that Forster and McLennan were stronger as partners than by themselves, so one fun exercise for fans is to assemble their 90's solo albums into pseudo Go-Betweens' albums. Last year Beggars Banquet assembled a two-disc compilation called Intermission with the best of Forster's and McLennan's solo material (one disc for Grant and one disc for Robert). If you listen to both discs on shuffle play, you can almost pretend that you're listening to a long lost Go-Betweens album.

Despite the obvious Grant McLennan influence (both in scope and in sound) The Evangelist sounds very much like a Robert Forster solo album. It's still a major bummer that we won't have any more Go-Betweens albums, but I hope this is only the first of many more Robert Forster albums! Maybe Robert was the lesser half of the Go-Betweens, but he's the only half we've got.


B said...

Christgau's always been full of it, and he proves it with that comment! Not just because of the greatness of Forster's Go-Betweens songs, but also because Forster's solo albums are fantastic and much stronger than Grant's.
Anyhow, The Evangelist is a magnificent album--really moving and beautiful.
The next Blackbirds album is dedicated to Grant, and there will likely be a pre-album digital EP featuring our version of one of his songs, so maybe it's taken all of us this long to process losing him.

125records said...

Not to defend Robert Christgau, but since his reviews run on the radio, the text versions at NPR.com are probably the transcriptions done by Burrell's or whatever service does that for the network. I doubt he would misplace that apostrophe...