The 1960s always provided major stimulus for Robert Forster and Grant McLennan, permeating a large portion of their catalog. The lineage of that influence is tracked to its source on this collection of their earliest, chiefly unreleased songs. Unearthed after 20 years, 78 'til 79 is an actual lost album that precedes any of the band's official albums, and it is saturated by the duo's reverence for the era. The band's first two singles bookend the album, and the music that occurs in between is, in a sense, a matter of hero worship, whether it is a case of the decade's pop culture affecting Forster and McLennan's attitudes and worldview ("Lee Remick," the posters of Jean-Paul Belmondo and Bob Dylan that decorate the practice space shown on the cover) or the songs themselves. Dylan's hand is particularly felt. The beatnik nonchalance of "Karen," with its literary roll call -- Hemingway, Genet, Brecht, Joyce -- is very much in the mold of Dylan, even showing a similarly effortless, tongue-in-cheek artsiness, while "Love Wasn't Made for Me and You" and "Rare Victory" mirror his most sardonic, bittersweet romantic side. In addition, "Summer's Melting My Mind" dives full-body into psychedelia, "Day for Night" has mod written all over it, and "The Sound of Rain" was almost certainly an effort, even if it only a subconscious one, to rewrite the Rolling Stones' "As Tears Go By." But they also surprisingly show an affinity for the Ramones ("Just Hang On") and for the then en vogue London punk scene, while simultaneously reaching back to their precedents in garage rock, which the album frequently echoes. The recording levels rise and fall (most the songs were recorded live to McLennan's 2-track in Forster's bedroom), feedback escapes from speakers, mistakes remain intact, McLennan and Tim Mustapha's rhythmic underpinning is rudimentary in the most terrifically thudding way, and the hooks and melodies are relatively simplistic. Forster and McLennan could never bypass hooks, however, and they don't do so on these songs, no matter how raw and youthfully reckless they are. The duo's songcraft was already in place, and, while boldly insolent and unsophisticated, the album nevertheless displays a unique talent that was soon to flower fully.
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AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart