Saturday, July 17, 2010

Album Review: The Go-Betweens – Oceans Apart

The Go-Betweens’ third album after regrouping, released in 2005 turned out to be their last. Song for song it’s probably their strongest. Robert Forster was on particularly good form here, opener Here Comes A City has a great jerky, snappy rhythm to it, all choppy guitar and clever lyrics (“why do people who read Dostoevsky look like… Dostoevsky). It's almost like Talking Heads, when Forster goes "hey, hey, hey" before the guitar solo he sounds just like David Byrne. There’s a change of pace for Finding You, a Grant McLennan mid-paced track featuring mandolin, very reminiscent of REM (when they were good).

Both Forster and McLennan are on good form here. McLennan’s are usually more commercial sounding and here it’s no different, any of his songs would sound good in more mainstream surroundings, especially the uptempo acoustic Boundary Rider.

But it’s Forster’s tracks which represent the edgier side of the Go-Betweens. Darlinghurst Nights is the emotional heart of the album, featuring a great descending acoustic guitar riff, full of yearning, matching the subject matter, concerning itself mainly with memories, and a nice Dylan reference in the bridge (“one more coffee then I must go”). He even tries his hand at a semi-reggae piece, Lavender, which shouldn’t work but actually does, helped in the main by the guitars and some cool-sounding lyrics “she’s got a pair of black boots that kick stones she’s got black moods she calls her own”). It’s a straightforward enough song about a girl who “wears lavender, it’s her scent” but it avoids cliché.

Final track, Mountains Near Dellray, sounds enormous, like it’s being performed on the aforementioned mountains, drifting across the valley. In fact Mark Wallis’ production is a little overwrought, as all the tracks boom out of the speakers, both the uptempo ones and the more delicate ones. A subtler production would have been preferable.

Ideal listening circumstances: Driving on a sunny day, late morning in spring, on your way to an event you are dreading and looking forward to in equal measures.