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The Go-Betweens - 16 Lovers Lane

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Artist: The Go-Betweens

Album: 16 Lovers Lane

Label: Jetset

Review date: Jan. 3, 2005

16 Lovers Lane is the perfect Go-Betweens album. Perhaps too perfect, some would say — the charm in the string of flawed, occasionally brilliant albums that the Australian combo recorded during the 1980s lay in their tensions between polished pop ambition and unabashedly bohemian eccentricity. But this record is an exception to the rule that the rough stuff is best. The 10 streamlined melodies that Robert Forster and Grant McLennan penned for this record took to the lush layers of guitars, strings, oboe and vocal harmonies crafted by producer Mark Wallis like dolphins to a fast ocean current. Credit also goes to Wallis and drummer Lindy Morrison for figuring out how to make the obligatory 1980s electronic drums move lightly and unobtrusively through the music instead of pounding it through the floor. But there was still plenty of tension in the lyrics, which contrasted romantic optimism with acrid regret. It’s right on the surface of McLennan’s “Streets Of Your Town,” which contrasts a lovely, romantic-sounding chorus with verses about battered wives and butchers knives, or buried in the hopefulness that underlies the details Forster doles out about a collapsing relationship in “I’m Allright.” It’s the steel in their pop hooks, the prick that makes you remember their sharpness when you’ve forgotten a few dozen other pop songs you once loved.

Should you have forgotten this album anyway, or never known it in the first place, Jetset’s deluxe reissue affords a chance to get acquainted with its virtues. It comes packaged with a second CD of B-sides, demos and live tracks that fans will love, even if they're only played once or twice. But amongst the odds and sods lays “Rock And Roll Friend,” an artful portrayal of ambivalent love that rates as one of Forster’s finest moments. If you have an earlier version of 16 Lovers Lane, this song alone justifies picking up this splendid reissue.

By Bill Meyer

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