The Friends Of Rachel Worth

...offers again a new spin on the classic...

‘Classic songwriting’ as a notion might have winged feet, but it still carries heavy baggage. We have come to think of the classic as being that which is written by sturdy British men in dark denim jackets; their reference points, their hunger for greatness, their technical virtuosity blinding us to the substance of what they produce. Never mind the friends of Rachel Worth – classic belongs to the friends of [a]Noel Gallagher[/a], and they carry tradition in a corduroy bag.

[a]Robert Forster[/a] and [a]Grant McLennan[/a] demonstrate that this needn’t be the case. They have the history, certainly: as the two songwriters in The Go-Betweens, in the 1980s, the two gents from Brisbane wrote songs of a warm and delicate articulacy that charmed listeners as much as baffled them with their lack of commercial success.

The thing is, they still do. ‘The Friends Of Rachel Worth’, the first Go-Betweens LP since 1988’s ’16 Lovers Lane’, takes the same form as their previous records (five songs each by Robert and Grant), and offers again a new spin on the classic.

‘German Farmhouse’). The vicarious reading of surfing magazines (‘Surfing Magazines’). Washing perfume from clothes (‘Orpheus Beach’). This is an album where both Pavarotti and Tom Verlaine appear and cohabit peaceably.

The impression The Go-Betweens leave is of two men who, although in their 40s, are as touched by the poignancy and, occasionally, poetry of experience as they were as slightly pretentious students 22 years ago. There’s a spontaneity here that replaces the formality of tradition with something more vital. Like a snapshot’s moment captured, the gap between composition and recording seems to have been reduced to nothing, and it’s here that the group hit their mark.

Steeped in pop music’s culture and its history, that The Go-Betweens have managed to avoid being detained by any of its orthodoxy is remarkable. And the return of their clear eye must be good for its future, too.