Found Album

In the '80s this Australian group developed a cult following with its quirky new-wave sound.

Almost every band seems to have a "Great Lost" album somewhere. The

whole thing started with the Kinks way back in the early '70s; The

Great Lost Kinks Album really was great, and lost (in fact, it

pretty much remains lost, never having been reissued on CD). Like the

Kinks, the Go-Betweens were so ahead of -- and out of -- their time

that their best work was ignored when it was made, leading to

personnel changes and a degree of melancholy. More to the point: like

the brothers Davies, the band's singer/ songwriters, Robert Forster

and Grant McLennan, have influenced many wealthier and less worthy

bands while continuing to be paid mostly in lip service.

It's hard to believe that the Go-Betweens' first release, Send Me a

Lullaby, came out in 1981; the music was as intense as the Velvet

Underground but as spare and funny as the Talking Heads, neither of

whom I imagine the Go-Betweens heard much in their native Brisbane,

Australia, at the time. Albums came and went throughout the '80s

despite the band's attempt to make the big time by moving to England

and adding some talented musicians to the mix: Before Hollywood

(1983) and Spring Hill Fair ('84) were challenging and quirky

albums, but it wasn't until the Go-Betweens were nearing dissolution

that the band's talents really blossomed.

Tallulah ('87), and Liberty Belle & the Black Diamond

Express ('86) both saw some radio airplay, especially the latter,

with its indelibly tuneful "Right Here." But the best came last: 16

Lovers Lane (1988), a sharply observed, deeply felt mini-classic

whose "Streets of Your Town" and "Dive For Your Memory" can still earn

astonishment and adoration, should anyone bother to listen. A few

poorly chosen compilations never helped much, despite the fact that

the Go-Betweens' music sounds as good today, or even better, than it

did in the first place. Forster and McLennan, meanwhile, have put out

some worthy albums since, especially McLennan's great Horsebreaker

Star ('95). All of the aforementioned are worth exploration by

anybody who's read this far, and if you're still with me because

you're actually a fan, you'll be thrilled to know about the recently

unearthed Lost Album.

Actually, the Lost Album isn't some gem that an evil record

company hid in the vault. Instead, it's a youthful Forster and

McLennan running through their dream set of tunes (i.e., what the two

would have recorded had they been given the money to make an actual

record) in somebody's living room with a pal on drums, and some stray

later singles tacked on. "Lee Remick"

(RealAudio excerpt) is the chief reason for having

this disc. The early single is both funny ha-ha and funny peculiar.

How many bands try to have a hit with a song whose refrain is "She's a

darling" and features the lyric, "She was in 'The Omen' with Gregory

Peck/ She got killed, what the heck?" Not entirely a joke, it also

continues, "She comes from Ireland, she's very beautiful/ I come from

Brisbane, I'm quite plain." A near-classic, to be sure. "Karen," the

flip side, is quite a rant ("I wish I heard voices, wish I was a

telephone") and features the inspirational rhyme of "Hemingway" and

"Genet." It's a bit like Jonathan Richman, only dumbed up instead of

down.

The ensuing tracks are the bedsit concert, complete with lousy sound

and pisstakes. "Help or Something" is the young duo's bizarre idea of

'70s pop -- Raspberries by way of Talking Heads -- while "Just Hang

On" is squarely in the genre of the reassurance tune (the Beach Boys'

"Don't Worry Baby" or the Four Seasons', um, "Just Hang On"). The

self-explanatory "Long Lonely Day" is almost unbearably sincere and

features, well, a long, lonely guitar solo.

"Day For Night," a song about mood swings, features a tiny glimpse of

the quirkiness to come and mentions the "psychic beat" of a woman's

walk. "Love Wasn't Made For You and Me" describes how "Late at night I

just wanna rock/ You take all your records, you say it's 10 o'clock."

Everyone's had a bummer of a relationship like that, right?

More impressive is "Summer's Melting My Mind"

(RealAudio excerpt), an unintentionally (I think) hilarious song that is about as minimalist as psychedelic music

gets. You can envision Grant and Robert imagining themselves as Pink

Floyd, though you can't hear it. "Obsession With You"

(RealAudio excerpt) (a knack for titles, eh?) is positively swell: "I'm gonna scream for you until my

voice turns blue!" and "I never knew that our Maker had such good

taste" explain said obsession. "Rare Victory" is serious and gentle,

and thus more like the Go-Betweens you will come to know and love.

Then it's time for more would-be hits. "The Sound of Rain" was to have

been a single on, of all labels, Berserkley UK, the Brit branch of the

label that first perpetrated Richman and bands like Earthquake. The

jangle quotient is upped, all to the good, and we finally hear Grant's

great voice. (Interestingly, all the songs on the CD are Robert's;

Grant would only emerge as a full equal in the songwriting department

later on.) "People Say" is more lyrically advanced and, cheesy

organ-blah-blah notwithstanding, a great leap forward: His girl can't

keep a job, or food in the fridge, but what the hell, he's mad about

her. And lastly, "Don't Let Him Come Back," literally the flip side,

is a Brian Wilsonesque bit of innocence wherein the singer has dark

visions of the guy who's gonna steal his love away, resulting in an

out-of-place harmonica blast and a strangulated vocal.

No one should begin investigation of the Go-Betweens with the Lost

Album, of course; 16 Lovers Lane is the one you can't do

without, and there's finally gonna be a well-chosen Greatest Hits out

soon. But anyone could love "Lee Remick," and fans won't want to miss

out on this glimpse into the origins of the band. The Go-Betweens were

lost ... but now they are found.