Release Date: Jan 20, 2015
Record label: Domino
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
In the long and detailed notes that founding member Robert Forster wrote to walk listeners through the first six years of The Go-Betweens’ existence, the singer/songwriter emphasizes his friend and creative partner Grant McLennan’s interest in cinema. It’s entirely fitting to stress, as listening to this impressive eight-disc collection (four LPs and four CDs) is akin to watching a montage of a young garage band learning how to play their instruments, play with one another and write songs as a group. Compare the rushed, ramshackle jangle of “I Wanna Be Today,” one of the earliest recorded songs by this Brisbane-born band, with the confident drive of “Man O’Sand To Girl O’Sea,” the final track on their third studio album Spring Hill Fair.
Clocking in at nearly six hours, G Stands for Go-Betweens features newly remastered vinyl pressings of the Brisbane group's first three albums, a compilation of its first five singles and four CDs that gather no fewer than 70 rarities recorded between 1978 and 1984 (including demos, unreleased songs, B-sides, a pair of radio sessions and an energetic set recorded in April 1982 at Sydney's Mosman Hotel). This may be too much of a good thing for newcomers — some of the early demos and rehearsals sound a little rough — but dedicated fans will appreciate the exceptional quality of the remasters and the set's exhaustiveness. For them, the booklet alone may well be worth the box's hefty price tag: in addition to several excellent essays and a full discography, it includes a lengthy history of the band's early years by co-founder Robert Forster, a collection of the late Grant McLennan's poetry and plenty of rare memorabilia (handwritten lyrics, a photo of the group's first performance, a young McLennan's review of Annie Hall).
This box set gathers the first three proper albums from Australia's The Go-Betweens, plus rarities and a fine disc of formative singles. It's music that wholly deserves to be spoken of in the same reverent tones reserved for canonized '80s guitar-pop legends, from R.E.M. and The Smiths to top-tier Kiwis, The Clean. .
The Go-Betweens were their own favorite band, and there's a lot to be said for that. Robert Forster and Grant McLennan met as teenaged boys at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, as Forster explains in the book that's the centerpiece of this anthology of their first seven years together. (His 70-page history of that period is written in the third person; count on the Go-Betweens for a touch of the impersonal where it's least expected.) They had their own ideas of what pop might be, and especially of what Australian pop might be.
G Stands For Go-Betweens (Vol.1) is a four-LP, four-CD box set from (now defunct) Australian indie band the Go-Betweens. Retailing at around US$280 and in limited edition, it seems unlikely that any reasonable person would attempt to acquire this without hearing firsthand what the band sound like and whether the contents are going to appeal in any way. If you already know of the Go-Betweens but are teetering on the brink (as to the making of a purchase as opposed to more generally), a critic may help you in making a decision, but otherwise (as the standard disclaimer goes) it would be perilous to rely on a review to decide whether to spend such a significant amount of money.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Did Robert Forster and Grant McLennan ever think that anthologists would be pouring over their archive recordings thirty years later? When the two of them were playing fledgling gigs as the Go-Betweens in Brisbane with randomly borrowed drummers, or when they arrived in London a few years later without any contacts in the music business and nearly had to do a sheepish about-turn back to Australia, they couldn't have imagined the reputation they would leave behind. In the intervening years they split up once, in 1989, disillusioned by a lack of mainstream success, only to reconvene eleven years later to make three more albums, until the sudden death of Grant McLennan in 2006 put an ultimately end to the band.
Domino take a fittingly comprehensive approach to anthologising this rareified band. The first in a planned three-volume set, it collects the group’s first trio of albums, plus a compilation of early singles, remastered and issued on vinyl alongside four CDs of rarities and live cuts. Add to this an exhaustive archival book and reproductions of period posters and press releases (and, for early birds, a book from the late Grant McLennan’s personal library) and you’ve got a completist’s dream.
Though the Go-Betweens' time ended tragically with Grant McLennan's death in 2006, the band's legend and influence has only grown since then as more and more young bands and artists discover them. Despite their august status, the group's albums had sadly fallen out of print in the U.S. and U.K. by 2015.