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All-Reviews.com Music Review
Friends of Rachel Worth

music reviewmusic reviewmusic review  out of 4

All-Reviews.com Music Review: Friends of Rachel Worth

Artist: The Go Betweens
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: September 2000


Review by LarryG
3 stars out of 4

The reunion of Robert Forster and Grant McLennan, the singer/songwriters from the Australian band the Go-Betweens, was among the best music news of 2000. The Go-Betweens were one of the best, most literate pop bands of the 80's, making elegant music, from short story quality lyrics, with a good sense of drama and fun. With no other former Go-Betweens present and each artist only adding a little guitar and voice to the other's songs, The Friends Of Rachel Worth is more like two intertwined solo eps but Forster and McLennan both bring strong songs.

The lead Go-Betweens have usually presented distinctive personalities. Forster was the more dramatic character on songs like Spring Hill Fair's Part Company and Draining The Pool and Tallulah's You Tell Me and McLennan the straight forward regular guy on 16 Lovers Lane's Love Goes On and Tallulah's luminous Bye Bye Pride. On Rachel Worth, McLennan seems especially earnest and sincere compared to the very relaxed Forster but his decency usually comes out. Magic is a sweet, if somewhat bland, love song. Orpheus Beach is heavy handedly portentous. McLennan does better on his faster songs. Clock starts as an edgy, mystical rocker but soon McLennan's likable voice and strumming create a more hopeful mood. Heart and Home is open hearted like McLennan's solo songs Easy Come, Easy Go and Open Your Eyes. It has fresh ways of expressing longing like "stop breathing the fumes of those other grooms and we really will be blessed" and an uplifting mood from McLennan optimistic, honest vocals and nice, overlapping acoustic and electric lines. McLennan's most fun contribution is Going Blind, his frustrated but amiable suggestion to the object of his affection to "try letting go". It has an easy pop mood with McLennan's unassuming vocals and steady guitar, nice backing vocals and a bit of weird synth at the end. Carrie Brownstein's guitar line is a little squiggle typical of her Sleater-Kinney work, but it gives the song a good hook and momentum.

Forster has a large share of Rachel Worth's attention grabbers. He's evolved as a writer. On 1988's 16 Lovers Lane, the Go-Betweens pre-breakup CD, Forster refined his writing to a brilliant essence on Clouds and I'm Alright. He has also became even more of a character in his solo work. Confident and having a good time, Forster effectively combines flamboyance and gracefully minimal writing on Rachel Worth. He starts fairly quietly with Spirit, a nice, simple acoustic number that's mostly Forster's voice and acoustic guitar. He drops in a bunch of good, wry lines like, I'm not the trouble "that I used to be when I was somebody's double" and "do you have any whiskey? I don't like to drink but I like to know it's along there with me." Forster moves into high gear with German Farmhouse. German Farmhouse has a fun contrast between a great stomping guitar riff and steady drumming from Sleater-Kinney's Janet Weiss and Forster's self contained, flamboyant half spoken vocal. Forster sings that he spent a couple years of happy seclusion, "just drinking beer" and "every day I woke up with a smile from ear to ear." He adds an aside about Pavarotti doing a benefit concert and gets into the giddy mood enough to let out a rock n roll "whoo". Forster gives He Lives My Life an appropriately overdramatic reading then mischievously sings, over a vaguely Hawaiian guitar, about a previously unrevealed passion on Surfing Magazines. Rachel Worth finishes with perhaps its finest moment, When She Sang About Angels. a subdued song with acoustic guitar and a hint of strings. Referring to Patti Smith, Forster sings about tolerating an idol's excesses and missteps, in her case a tendency to accompany her work with obvious imagery. Even if he'd prefer Smith singing about Tom Verlaine instead of Kurt Cobain, there's no doubt he's a fan.

The Friends Of Rachel Worth is a good showcase for two singer/songwriters from similar places, geographically and musically, with interestingly differing personas. While the CD doesn't have that much of a band feeling, Forster and McLennan were apparently spurred by a friendly rivalry to contribute some of their best songs in a decade. The quality of the songs is high and the mood is comfortable. In the past, some Go Betweens songs like Right Here, where McLennan's love for Amanda Brown might have led to a mix featuring her violin a little more than necessary, were a little overdone. The Friends of Rachel Worth has modest arrangements. Weiss and bass player Adele Pickvance are generally inobtrusive as McLennan and Forster, older and calmer, unflashily make their points with guitars and voices. The five songs that each offer whet your appetite for more of their quality music in the near future. If you need a quick fix, I recommend any of the Go-Betweens records, especially Tallulah or 16 Lovers Lane or the Go-Betweens' very good Bellavista Terrace compilation, and McLennan's good 19 song 1993 solo CD, Horsebreaker Star.

10000031

 


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