To end another wonderful decade of great music, I’m going to write about ten albums from each of the last ten years, that are either great, or hold some sort of personal significance. A musical kiss off to 00s.
2008 – #4. Robert Forster – The Evangelist
The Go-Betweens are one of my all time favourite bands. When Grant McLennan, one of the two main songwriters, died in 2006, it hit me pretty hard. By that time, I knew a lot of his friends and got to meet him a couple of times. His partner in crime for many decades, Robert Forster, declared the Go-Betweens dead. He took his time to write his first solo album, some songs he co-wrote with McLennan before his death. It’s a gorgeous album about life, death, friends and hope. I loved it.
I discovered the Go-Betweens from a book – Clinton Walker‘s masterful study of Australian music in the 80s called Stranded. I read it in high school, discovering these bands like Radio Birdman, the Bad Seeds and the Saints in print, before I heard many of their records. The Go-Betweens appeared often throughout the book and something really hit me about the band. They were the wussy guys, the arty ones. They talked about old films, french writers and other weird, pretentious things. They had girls in the band. Anyway it fit into my aesthetic. Out of that great scene in the Australian 80s, the Go-Betweens really grabbed me.
I bought all the albums, and read David Nichol‘s excellent biography. From there, I clearly felt like I knew the guys, right? My first ever over 18s gig was seeing Forster and McLennan at the Basement in Sydney. They were my world.
Most people prefer Forster – one of those silly things you do when you love a band, picking favourites – but I liked them both. I couldn’t deny all those great pop songs that McLennan wrote, even though Forster looked so much cooler. I managed to find some of their solo recordings, but never really got to know them. So I wasn’t really prepared for how good the Evangelist was.
McLennan‘s influence is all over this album. Forster shows a directness, and a simpleness in his songwriting and melodies. And the emotional honesty and the intimacy…out of this world. With very little instrumentation, there’s nothing separating you from the heart of these songs. For such a clown, Forster being so open is disarming – and fascinating.
The masterpiece is Demon Days. Half written with McLennan, it’s simple and direct, with it’s swaying chorus of something’s not right/something’s gone wrong. The ballads really make up the heart of this record. A Place To Hide Away and the title track are Forster‘s best songs in years. The Evangelist, a psuedo apology to his wife for taking her out of her home, is especially touching.
It’s not all slow and dreary either. Pandanus was the single, and shows Forsters love of the Velvet Underground has not abated. In fact, for an acoustic record, it’s surprisingly varied. That’s very, very hard to do.
I love Robert Forster, in that misguided but rewarding way some fans love their heroes. Together with Grant, they were my friends. They were equally as dorky as me, and they did the things I wanted to do. So above and beyond the details about this record, I’m so happy that Robert is ok. That this album was so good, and that he is still making music. An old friend is back on his feet again.
[Looks like there were no videos for this album…shame]