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New York Bowery Ballroom

Tonight's enthusiastic comeback show proves their music is timeless...

With The Go-Betweens just recently rousing themselves from a

11-year hibernation, it's understandable if you find yourself

s
quinting at Grant McLennan and Robert Forster onstage and

trying to remember which one is the romantic cynic with the wry

streak and which one is the wistful romantic with the realistic

streak. So for the record, the former is Forster - tall, professorial

air, resplendent in silly striped suit - and the latter is McLennan,

short, amiably reserved, and looking like he'd like to get back on

a surfboard at some point soon.





Not that these distinctions matter too much when the Aussies

get their two-halves-of-the-same-brain trick working, as the

resulting taut'n'smart guitar pop sounds as good now as it did back in 1989 or 1983. Tonight's enthusiastic show features about

an even split between tracks from their new album, The

Friends of Rachel Worth
, and older favourites, with the

transitions mainly seamless. In particular, McLennan's new

songs, such as the deceptively sunny 'Going Blind' and 'The

Clock'
, sync up perfectly well with his jangle-classics like

'Streets of Your Town' and 'Bachelor Kisses'. And new bassist

Adele Pickvance sweetly fills in the female harmonies originally

provided by former members Amanda Brown and Lindy Morrison

(and, on the new album, by the multi-talented Janet Weiss).





In their last go-round on the music scene, in the late '80s, The

Go-Betweens
had more than a decade's worth of critically

acclaimed material under their belt and had just signed to a

major label; a wider commercial breakthrough didn't seem

implausible. But that didn't happen, leading to their extended

hibernation and a few hit-or-miss solo efforts from both Foster

and McLennan. Now, of course, the reigning music scene has

ensured that commercial radio is as far away from The

Go-Betweens
' literate pop as the Alaskan shoreline is from

Australia's balmy beaches.





And, ironically, Forster and McClennan seem invigorated by this

development. A new generation of indie fans has discovered

them, partly due to guest spots on ?Friends by members

of Sleater-Kinney, Quasi, and Pavement, but also because the

recent aggro developments in alternative rock make their old-school

pop songs sound quite fresh. One exception is Forster's odd

Patti Smith paean 'When She Sang About Angels', though it gets

underground-context points by rhyming Kurt Cobain with Tom

Verlaine
. The duo seems a bit surprised by the cheerful

response of tonight's relatively young crowd; Forster apologises

for their lack of between-song banter - "We haven't had time to

practice any!". But cheesy jokes soon fade into the ether;

tonight's enthusiastic comeback show proves their music is

timeless.



Lisa Gidley

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