Go-Betweens-16 Lovers Lane

October 30, 2009

The Go-Betweens

16 Lovers Lane (1988 Beggars Banquet)


Believe it or not, this red-blooded American once identified so closely with the sexless indifference of Morrissey that it resembled some wayward strain of Stockholm Syndrome. This is sad and ironic since my high school existence was most assuredly sexless, but jam-packed with nothing but lust and longing. Even during those low points where I found misguided parallels with these paeans to abstinence and restraint, there was something empty about this perpetual cock blocking because all I really wanted to do was race down the street and make awkward conversation with any and all females who would tolerate my formative flirting. All of this seems ridiculous now, but there was a purity to those moments when love was a blank canvas yet to be stained by a single stroke. However, those squeaky clean moments pale in comparison to the richness of a wrinkled and stained life where one can reflect upon the hullabaloo that was their life and the lessons learned in the process.

Therefore, I now harbor an unadulterated love for a similar minded group of misanthropes and romantics that fixate on the bruises and stains instead of Morrissey’s porcelain and pale. The Go-Betweens bored me to tears in my 20s as their dour, slow-motion ruminations on mortality and regret seemed too monochrome for my florescent fantasies of bob hairdos and sassy lasses. Let’s just say that my winding road is littered with potholes and the Go-Betweens weather-beaten tales now ring so true that I feel naive for ever thinking that a homoerotic “come hither” like the Smiths’ “Hand in Glove” could ever be my anthem for an afternoon.

16 Lover Lane, their sixth album, isn’t even my favorite, but it the one I revisit most since it best captures the knot in your stomach one gets when in the midst of a difficult decision. Its protagonists roll the dice and either revel in ecstatic summits or tumble down into depression as a result. In short, it is an album about fucking up and making up. This duality seems apt since the band’s musical and lyrical identity was also split between two distinct forces, Robert Forster and Grant McClennan. Yeah, their respective songs were both pretty bleak, but McClellan always seemed to aim for a much lighter shade of gray. Both sing about spilled mik, but McClennan wipes it up while Forster shrugs and walks away in resignation.

Just see how each tackles heartbreak. “Dive for Your Memory” turns rejection into an ode to building new homes on old rubble. It reminisces on history, then uses it as fodder for new campaigns. However, the lyrical flipside can be found in “Clouds” which gets beaten and lays on the canvas feeling sorry for itself. Where Morrissey openly pined in isolation, Forster and McClennan fought, fucked and loved and sat down to tell you that life is goddamn gorgeous, not a piddling chore. It might piss on your leg on occasion and cause you to wear pajamas for 48 hours from time to time, but it was ultimately a lovely tumble that left you dizzy and smitten.

The Go-Betweens

Spring Hill Fair(Sire 1984)


In my younger years, I was wrong about a lot more than I am today. However, I can easily imagine a similar judgement from a cranky bastard who looks incredibly like myself in ten years. It’s just that I have been so misguided in my first impressions of bands. I thought Spacemen 3’s Perfect Prescription was a load of hippie bullshit and that Dolly Parton was funny in 9 to 5, but who in the hell wants to listen to that hokey bullshit? Years later, I cannot imagine life without Dolly’s tales of bargain stores and multi-colored coats. A similar situation occurred when I first heard Spring Hill Fair.

Countless cronies had talked them up a storm over the years, but they just seemed so monotonous and dour. Neither vocalist seemed too excited by thought of life and there weren’t many hooks or melodies to my ears. Never gave ’em a whit of thought until a chance encounter with a fellow traveler bearing Spring Hill Fair. Maybe life dealt me a few too many dour moments since its cynicism and broken spirit seemed more approachable now.

Spring Hill Fair is devoted to slowly decaying affairs, broken promises the consequences of decisions not made. It’s a bit like a poor bloke in the throes of his own version of the Stations of the Cross. Each song piles yet another indignity upon our poor protagonist as mortgages, age, domesticity and accumulated slights weigh heavily upon him.  Now, Spring Hill Fair isn’t all piss and vinegar. Our hero also may be the most sentimental record about humiliation ever recorded. It’s almost an ode to falling out of love as Forster and McClennan vie to see who can take the most pleasure from being hurt.

Therefore, it’s only fitting that a B-Side on the bonus disc tackles the plight of the courtesan. An educated, beautiful devotee to their love who perpetually shuns them in favor of less worthy souls. All of Spring Hill Fair’s lovable losers kind of remind me of courtesans in training. All of them enthusiastically take their lumps and stoke the fires of love while the object of their affections kick dirt upon the flames. Highly recommended for moments of masochism.