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The Go-Betweens: The Friends Of Rachel Worth

Album: The Friends Of Rachel Worth
Label: Jetset

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Last year, The Go-Betweens released a collection of early material drawn from the late '70s dubbed The Lost Album. It was the first "new" release from the Australian band since 1989, when the mostly acoustic swan song 16 Lovers Lane gave fans their last taste of the group's literate and in many ways unparalleled pop songcraft. The Lost Album sounded little like The Go-Betweens' better-known material—great albums such as Before Hollywood and Liberty Belle & The Black Diamond Express—but concurrent press did indicate that singer-songwriters Grant McLennan and Robert Forster had been working together again, a rumor confirmed by the duo's brief acoustic tour. But the real fruit of the reunion is The Friends Of Rachel Worth, the first proper Go-Betweens record in 11 years and in many ways its true "lost" album. It's a credit to the timelessness of the band's approach that The Friends Of Rachel Worth is of a piece with the rest of The Go-Betweens' oeuvre, a bittersweet, adamantly melodic match of McLennan's overt pop songs and Forster's more eclectic and arty exercises. Granted, the two have learned a few lessons over the course of the last decade. Most notably, they avoid the glossy production pitfalls that threaten to date some of the other Go-Betweens albums, recording the album in Portland with the help of members of Sleater-Kinney and Quasi, neither of which bears a resemblance to The Go-Betweens. The result is an album that combines the rawness of early recordings with the spare and pristine emotion of the band's later material, a perfect cross between Before Hollywood and 16 Lovers Lane. McLennan gets off a few of his best songs ("The Clock," "Heart And Home," "Orpheus Beach"), while Forster exhibits his own unique charms on "Spirit" and "German Farmhouse." Forster's "Surfing Magazines" even comes complete with a doot-doot chorus. But the most remarkable thing about The Friends Of Rachel Worth is the way McLennan and Forster are able to pick up the pieces so many years later and make that decade disappear. The results are pithy and almost shocking in their casual brilliance, if only because what could have been a baggage-filled trip down memory lane instead sounds so natural for right now.