Saturday, 17 September 2016

Grant and I by Robert Forster

"I woke the morning after his death with him telling me two things. The first was that I must put to paper everything that had happened to us, write our adventures down, which was the moment this book was born."
The book's title is slightly misleading. It's as much a Robert Forster autobiography than it is a Go-Betweens biography.

This bias, though, isn't born of vanity. Yes, Forster has never projected any lack of self-confidence (exhibit A: I Love Myself and I Always Have from last year's Songs To Play) but in this book we learn that "Grant was emotionally constrained and had to be approached respectfully."

Forster approaches Grant's life respectfully, and with great admiration for his talents. If you're familiar with Forster's music journalism, you'll know how he measures his subjects with a musician's respect and a fan's heart. He does the same with his songwriting partner.

Forster was in a relationship with McLennan for almost 30 years: "We created the most romantic thing two heterosexual men can, a pop group." He makes many acute insights and observations about McLennan as a person - his music, relationships with women and his family, his lifestyle - with a gently wise understanding that only his closest friend can.

Grant and I is a much better Go-Betweens biography than David Nichols' book. Nichols, perhaps as an Australian or an author in Australia without the means in a pre-internet age to properly explore the band's time in London, devotes much of his book to The Go-Betweens' very early years.

This shortcoming left a 5-year hole, 1982-7, in the biography. Grant and I covers these years - all years, in fact - with a critic's eye and an insider's perspective. No matter the tumult, Forster is a steady hand on the tiller.

Even so, Forster offers a much more intriguing historical view than Nichols' sociological leanings. You want to know what 1984 was like? It was a "sunglasses-after-dark kinda scene...A time when you didn't consider one consequence of your deeds, a time so unusual Dylan was making bad albums."

There's - predictably, thrillingly - no modesty in declaring any Go-Betweens songs classics. Equally, he's candid about the band's studio failures and why they never crossed over to the big time.

Grant and I is an incredibly easy, enjoyable read. This is largely down to Forster's spry prose which can sparkle with luminous wit. After breaking up with Lindy he realises that he's 29, at his physical peak and single in London: "rock'n'roll ambitions had me thin, and swivel-hipped dangerous."

All that remains is the casting for the biopic.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Chook Race - Around the House

Four years ago Chook Race announced themselves with Pop Song, where pop song meant scrawny garage, trebly jangle and tribal tub thumping. I was hooked.

Around the House has more conventional pop songs than last year's About Time album, where conventional means brighter tunes, more harmonies and slightly higher production values. It's a better album for all that.

There's very little polish because this is is still a Melbourne album. So Sun in Eyes is luminous slacker rock with a sharp eye for detail, like Scott & Charlene's Wedding. And Lost the Ghost is a relative of Dick Diver's Interstate Forever, compulsive longing compressed into a pop song.

Around the House is on the always reliable Tenth Court in Australia and the USA's Trouble In Mind, who have also scooped the mighty Dick Diver and Beef Jerk for the Australian wing of their roster. Great company for an undeniably great record.

The Tyde - Darren 4

You know how a new record can trigger a connection that makes you dig out an old record by a different band you haven't thought about in years? Well, the last thing I expected to remind me about The Tyde was a new record by The Tyde themselves.

But here we are, 10 years after Three's Co., and time has barely changed The Tyde's footprint which starts with Dylan's Positively 4th Street and ends with Felt's Poem of the River. These songs are - predictably, comfortingly, brilliantly - romantically introvert and hauntingly melancholic.

Like their contemporaries the Pernice Brothers, The Tyde pretty much do one thing. Sometimes they do that thing better than other times. Darren 4 is absolutely one of the better times. They're wise enough to know that if it ain't broke there's no point trying to mix it.