Published Jan 01, 2006"In rock'n'roll terms, the Go-Betweens always take the checkered flag," said Robert Forster, shortly after the break-up of the group he led, alongside co-songwriter Grant McLennan, from 1978 to 1989. The extent to which they could ever have been described as rock'n'roll is arguable, but the Go-Betweens were certainly some sort of champions. The six increasingly accomplished albums the Australian group released in the 80s remain near-peerless marriages of keen melodies and romantic observations so sharp, a listener's visceral joy is never interrupted by thoughts of just how intelligent it all is. Successive practitioners of smart, pretty pop owe them a great debt ? a fact to which Belle and Sebastian would concede if they, in fact, spoke.
Last year's successful Forster/McLennan acoustic reunion tour convinced the pair that they should record a new album under the Go-Betweens name, but they weren't concerned that the absence of their former cohorts would make the appropriation seem dubious. Other than drummer Lindy Morrison, who had been with them since 1981, the group had always been a revolving cast around the two writers' ongoing vision. But how, then, to achieve the intuitive band dynamic of the GB's final years, which Forster had been so proud of?
At the Portland stop of their tour, the duo announced from the stage their intention to make a new album. In the audience were longtime fans Sleater-Kinney, and Quasi's Sam Coombes (who shares S-L drummer Janet Weiss), all of whom immediately offered their services. A fortuitous interview with Portland-based engineer and Jackpot Studio owner Larry Crane (for his Tape Op magazine), presented an ideal recording locale.
The result, The Friends Of Rachel Worth (Jetset), is, according to Forster, "exactly the album we wanted to make." A deliberate retreat from the creeping studio gloss that had decorated the GB's 1988 swan song, 16 Lovers Lane, it instead recalls the warm, intimate tones of their 1983 watershed, Before Hollywood.
Alongside keyboards from fellow Portlander, Elliot Smith, the S-L/Quasi axis provides beautifully understated backing to sterling tunes like tour show-stopper "He Lives My Life," and Forster's touching Patti Smith tribute, "When She Sang About Angels." An upcoming world tour (Forster and McLennan are currently forming a stage band), and the promise of future Go-Betweens albums should see the group's good name claiming many more checkered flags. Lucky us.