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Spring Hill Fair

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Album Review

With Robert Vickers and his more straightforward style of bass introduced to the band, McLennan switched fully over to guitar and the quartet entered the studio with producer John Brand for Spring Hill Fair. A slightly more conventional but no less entrancing collection of songs in comparison to Before Hollywood, Spring Hill Fair contains its fair share of Go-Betweens classics, with the rough, barbed emotional edge of many lyrics getting almost gentle arrangements. There's more appearances from guest musicians than ever before, with contributions running from string arrangements to trumpet and saxophone. It's all still the Go-Betweens' own style of chiming guitar rock, able to switch between restraint and a hard-swinging (definite credit again to Morrison — check out her glammy stomp on "The Old Way Out") but not hard-riffing punch. Leadoff track "Bachelor Kisses," with its subtly intense mid-song break, McLennan's suddenly nervous singing matched by a quiet intensity in the music, is easily matched at the end with Forster's "Man O' Sand to Girl O' Sea," its pounding chorus one of the band's best captured moments of desperation. If McLennan had ultimate pride of place on Before Hollywood with "Cattle and Cane," Forster comes to the fore here with the just tense enough "Draining the Pool for You." It's a blackly humorous portrait of a maintenance worker and the faded superstar who hired him that also succeeds as a perfect kiss-off, with a memorable chorus to boot. Other Forster-sung standouts include "Part Company," an almost-Smiths-like all-around performance on the verses spiked with an at once inspirational and regret-laden chorus. Throughout the album one can not only hear the expanded lineup testing things out, but individual players adding their own particular flair — the brush-and-shuffle percussion from Morrison on "Five Words," McLennan's great lead guitar solo on "You've Never Lived," Vickers' ability with crisp funk on "Slow Slow Music."


Formed: 1978 in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '00s

The Go-Betweens were perhaps the quintessential cult band of the '80s: they came from an exotic locale (Brisbane, Australia), moved to a major recording center (in their case, London) in a sustained bid to make a career out of music, released album after album of music seemingly tailor-made for the radio in spite of their having little use for contemporary Top 40 musical/lyrical formulas, and earned considerable critical praise and a small but fervent international fan base. Although the Go-Betweens...
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