Album Review – Bright Yellow Bright Orange by The Go-betweens (2003) (Trifekta Records)

After a 12 year hiatus, phase II of The Go-Betweens started with the The Friends of Rachel Worth album (2000). At the time this album was slightly denigrated from two perspectives. Initially a large number of music snobs, who could not actually recall their late 1980’s heyday, presumed that they would be a ‘quirkfest’ reflecting bands such as Pavement and Belle & Sebastian who had declared themselves devotees.
Secondly, those who were devotees in phase I could not imagine Robert Forster and Grant Mclennan sans Lindy Morrison, Amanda Brown and John Willstead, all of whom were integral members of the band during various points of the Liberty Belle…, Tallulah and 16 Lovers Lane, halcyon days. As such the majority of us needed time for The Friends of Rachel Worth to become a ‘grower’.

However, if the above phase II album was the sound of band reigniting the engine and replacing the missing cogs, Bright Yellow Bright Orange is the sound of the engine, now fully repaired and if not quite roaring (The Go-Betweens will always be far to erudite and melodic to ‘roar’), certainly purring like all well-oiled machinery should, albeit the purr of this album is somewhat different to that of their late 1980’s heyday.

Initially this difference may well have been forced. In phase I they had more quirks. These quirks were largely born by stumbling across an inimitable chemistry between band members and a signature sound that occurred as young musicians came to terms with the possibilities of their instruments and possibly the expectations of the era’s indie aesthetic. As such there was always the feel that among the numerous beauty of their melodies that there was essentially a subtle post-punk essence to their sound. Perhaps an unwitting essence or quirk…but one that made them immensely cool for an era that needed a get out clause from the big hair and shoulder pads.
This version of ‘cool’ has largely gone in this album (and indeed in phase II in general) as The Go-Between’s are now accomplished musicians totally aware of, and at total ease with the various capabilities and nuances of their sound. As such the jangle-pop melodies on this album are the primary focal point as Grant Mclennan adds his more traditionally beautiful vocals to the persistent strum of beautifully melodic tracks such as Poison In The Wall, New Mexico and the wonderful Crooked Lines (see below). It may not be as quirky as the 1980’s but it is has an accentuated, intense beauty.
Crooked Lines
However, the 1980’s penchant for quirk has not completely disappeared though. It is now just a more subtle indie-pop version that could almost have been engineered for the early 2000’s. The more idiosyncratic tracks are all led by Robert Forster, whose less classically gifted vocals, when compared to Mclennan, are compensated for by having the natural tone, vocal inflections and perfect imperfections that are the very essence of the most recognized vocalists from the indie-pop genre. This is best displayed in the true stand out tracks of the album of Too Much of One Thing, Caroline and I and the superlative Make Her Day (see below).

Make Her Day

I am probably in something of a minority when extolling the virtues of phase II as being comparable to their 1980’s heyday. However, if old indie-heads can just break free from the shackles that those of advancing years tend to be chained with, inasmuch that we feel everything from our youth is the total epitome of some sort of musical Utopia, then we might just be able to accept this album as the absolute masterpiece it deserves to be called.
Artist Links
@gobetweensnet (Twitter fans page)

4 comments

  1. Well, it's an excellent album indeed. I like it better than The Friends of Rachel Worth and Oceans Apart even if, from my point of view, Before Hollywood and 16 Lovers Lane can't be matched. Thank you again for this amazing blog.Jean-Baptiste

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  2. Good to see some appreciation for that one — I love all the reunion albums to different degrees, partly because it meant I finally got to see the Go-Betweens live (albeit never with a full band, but I can't complain).

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  3. I saw them several times in London in the mid to late 80's…strangely enough they were not that big at the time so saw them in some very intimate venues. Forster (more than McClennan) was the true archetypal showman, full of the indie quirks we all went mad for…thanks for giving this a read Rex.

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