The Go-Betweens

The Friends of Rachel Worth

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Twelve years after disbanding the Go-Betweens, Brisbane-based singer/songwriters Robert Forster and Grant McLennan reformed the band they began in 1978 for their seventh album. While they haven't quite picked up where they left off (none of the other original members hopped on board), and the violin/viola that was such an integral aspect of their last few albums appears sporadically, this isn't a huge departure from the trademarked Go-Betweens sound. Poetic, languid, spoken/sung vocals similar to Lou Reed weave between lovely melodies whose appeal unfolds with repeated listens. Strummed guitars and sympathetic drums (sadly, the marvelous percussionist Lindy Morrisson, a mainstay of the band, is missing) spar with Forster and McLennan's breathy, often stream of consciousness vocals. But since the singer/songwriters evenly split the ten tracks, this sounds more like a combination of two solo albums rather than one from a cohesive unit. The backing musicians, which include Olympia's similarly hyphenated Sleater-Kinney, are generally faceless except on the riff-rocking "German Farmhouse" where the band sounds even more like the Velvet Underground than usual. Forster's ode to Patti Smith, the album closing "When She Sang About Angels," is occasionally gorgeous, with half-recited lyrics that sometimes flow yet often sound uncomfortably meshed with the beautiful melody. But on the effervescent "Going Blind," the duo returns to the uncluttered, wistful, folk-pop sound of their best work. While it won't garner new fans, or even make newcomers search out their earlier work, The Friends of Rachel Worth is a convincing if inconsistent return to form. Its highlights recall the past glories of this commercially overlooked band and add a handful of keepers to their best work.

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