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Aussie Melody Makers

A compilation of solo work from the Go-Betweens' songwriters

****

ROBERT FORSTER/GRANT MCLENNAN
The Best of the Solo Recordings 1990-1997
Beggars Banquet

Grant Mclennan's fatal heart attack in May 2006 ended Australia's Go-Betweens, a group nearly three decades old that after ten years off had reconvened convincingly in 2000, releasing three albums that promised many more. Neither McLennan nor partner Robert Forster ever stopped writing songs, and they never equated youth with vitality. Their audience was growing old with them--and growing larger, too. Two of the new albums were among their best. Winnowing down the four solo albums a piece of their decade apart, this compilation can't replace the Go-Betweens albums we'll never hear. But they'll give recent converts something more to chew on.

Where Go-Betweens records set McLennan's unruffled romantic discontents against Forster's talkier, knottier excursions, improving both by contrast, these discs don't have that option because they're split up one per artist. So McLennan, who wrote more easily than Forster--his best solo release was the two-CD Horsebreaker Star, while one of Forster's was all covers--gets a surefire album-by-album selection marred only by the static production with which born melodists sometimes flatter themselves. Here, the tunes are too good for that to matter much. There's instant proof of McLennan's gift in the wry, tender, gorgeous opener, "Haven't I Been a Fool," and unending evidence thereafter--the inextinguishable "Lighting Fires," the unapproachable "Surround Me," the ominous "Malibu 69." Ignoring chronology, Forster's more eccentric disc doesn't even lead with "Baby Stones," a refusal of open relationships that soars on his most McLennan-esque tune. But hooks have a way of surfacing with these guys--the keyboard riff of "I Can Do," the herky-jerk repetitions of the title "Danger in the Past." Clearly the surviving Go-Between should keep making music--alone. He is scheduled to record his fifth solo album in London this fall.

Rolling Stone, Sept. 6, 2007