Thursday, August 12, 2010

Album Review: Robert Forster – The Evangelist

This 2008 album was Robert Forster’s first solo album in 12 years. It should have been a Go-Betweens album, but for the death of Grant McLennan. It’s very much in the vein of the post-reformation Go-Betweens albums, and can definitely stand beside them.

Opening track If It Rains is a pretty calm, slow number, in the vein of the Velvet Underground’s Pale Blue Eyes (especially the guitar solo in the middle). The playing on this is really pretty, and it has an air of a lost Lou Reed classic, and even the storm sounds towards the end work well.

Demon Days which follows is the centrepiece. Written with Grant McLennan a few days before his death, it displays a hitherto unheard Neil Young influence, sounding like an instant classic, which would fit in seamlessly on any of Young’s more acoustic albums. Forster sounds like a worldly wise Neil Young on his vocals with a simple chorus of “something’s not right, something’s gone wrong”, as the music becomes ever more lovely, with the guitars joined by violin, cello and even celeste. Despite this, it’s a beautifully simple song.

Pandanus picks up the pace a bit with a simple jangly guitar/bass/drums arrangement and arrives in time to stop the album from sinking in a sea of morbidity with some particularly fine guitar on this one. Did She Overtake You follows in a very similar vein, also uptempo before the pace slows again with the title track. This one is a classic dreamer type song, about taking a girl “out of her world and put her into mine… let’s sail away baby, please try and follow me”. Later there’s a lovely image about how “she drove a Golf white diesel… she took me into her world of parks and wooden seats”. Indeed it’s these little details that make this romantic song work, without them it would probably be fairly unremarkable.

Let Your Light In, Babe and It Ain’t Easy were also worked on with McLennan, and are kind of countryish skiffles, with the former featuring jaunty mandolin. But the final track From Ghost Town is another tear-jerker, again in the vein of Neil Young, with plaintive piano. The lyrics however are all Forster, presumably singing about McLennan: “and he knew more than I knew, and I hated what he hated too”, and also “it’s gone, yes yes yes it’s wrong”. It’s deeply sad, yet goose-bump inducing and is then punctuated by a Neil Young style harmonica at the end. It could have been mawkish and sentimental but it’s handled with self-deprecation and sensitivity. It’s powerful stuff.