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The Go-Betweens - That Striped Sunlight Sound

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Artist: The Go-Betweens

Album: That Striped Sunlight Sound

Label: Yep Roc

Review date: Mar. 19, 2006

Robert Forster tells the crowd partway through the concert that forms the core of this release that the Go-Betweens are about the last band to make a concert DVD. He's just making conversation, but he also puts his finger on a fine point; the Go-Betweens' allure is hard to capture, and despite being a great band to see, they're not that well served by live recording. That's because their essence is an elusive blend of volatile personalities, sublime melodies, acerbic yet poetic lyrics, and weak points (like Forster's not quite reliable singing and guitar playing, which I've seen fellow band-leader Grant McLennan mock with a showbizzy "Take it away, Bobby!") somehow turned to their advantage. The great moment at one of their shows is as likely to be a throwaway gesture as it is a stirring version of one of their hits.

The DVD includes a concert recorded before an adoring crowd in their hometown of Brisbane, Australia (this also appears as a CD), a more intimate acoustic performance made the next day in a living room, and a bonus section that mainly consists of fans talking about the Go-Betweens. I guarantee you won't play the bonus more than twice, but the acoustic section, which includes much reminiscence in between the chronologically arranged songs, is a goldmine for fans. It gets you a bit closer to the complicated mix of respect and oneupsmanship that has fueled Forster and McLennan's partnership, and gets you really close to some marvelous songs.

There's "Cattle And Cane," McLennan's meditation on his outback upbringing, and "Bye Bye Pride," a caddy's memory of blowhard babble that somehow cradles the stories of entire lives lost and reclaimed. There's "Lee Remick," Forster's love letter to the ill-fated "Omen" star, and "German Farmhouse," one of the best songs ever written about the pleasure of doing nothing for a long, long time. And there are seven more where they came from, all swell.

The concert is more workmanlike, split evenly between selections from their classic ’80s records and tunes from the three records they've made since they reunited in 1999. New lyrics and rethought arrangements elevate the McLennan solo song "Black Mule" and an acoustic version of "Clouds." "Spring Rain" is as joyous and hopeful as ever, and "Surfing Magazines" finds truth and happiness in mundane remembrance. But wobbly singing keeps a brisk performance of "The Clock" from eclipsing the studio version, and some manufacturing glitches on the DVD may stump your player (my computer could hop over them, my DVD player could not). But you'll forget all that when you cruise down the street with your arm out the window cranking "Karen," in which Forster raves his adoration of the librarian, somehow channeling Jonathan Richman and Patti Smith at once.

By Bill Meyer

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