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Album Review

Tallulah, the Go-Betweens fifth album, was supposed to be the band's breakthrough recording in America. That said, its sound is nearly a full-on break with the edginess that began to fade on 1986's Liberty Belle and The Black Diamond Express. More lush, rounded, and polished, it sounds like a record made in the mid-'80s thanks in large part to Lindy Morrison's use of drum programs in addition to her trap kit. Add to this the contributions of new member Amanda Brown on violin, oboe, and backing vocals and one has a revamped band. Fans didn't take to the new sound with kindness initially, but the songwriting of Forster and McLennan was so much more focused and taut, it more than compensates for production errors. Nowhere is this more evident than "Right Here," the album's opener. The multi-tracked violins drive the center of the tune sprightly, in an off-rail, cut-time tempo. Robert Vickers' colorful keyboards and Morrison's programming are truly adornments, but McLennan's soulful yet philosophical vocal anchors the tune on bedrock and is supported by a beautiful chorus of backing vocals led by Brown. "You Tell Me," sung by Forster, leads with distorted guitars held in check by the sweetness of the melody and Morrison's meld of trap and synthetic drumming. Once more, keyboards counter the guitars as Vickers accents the beat pushing Forster and the wafting backing vocals deeper inside lyric and melody. McLennan's "Someone Else's Wife," is, by contrasts, stark, dark, and suffocating with moody strings accenting the protagonist's plight. The driving "Cure-ish" riff that kicks off Forster's "I Just Get Caught Out," is nearly transcendent; its pained verses are juxtaposed against backing vocalists filling the refrain with a cheery ba-ba-ba-ba-bum. The nearly funky organ and bass swirl of "Cut It Out," is unlike any Go-Betweens song before or since. The beautiful cello and violin section that fuels "The House That Jack Kerouac Built," with a shimmering rhythm guitar line, is the perfect maelstrom for Forster's gorgeous images of stolen illicit love in a dodgy cinema and are topped only by his desperate delivery. This recording may not have had fans of the band swooning at the time, but despite its production it has aged exceptionally well although it remains a product firmly of its time. The raw emotion, vulnerable tenderness and romantic desperation in its songs, textured by the blend of strings and keyboards, adds depth and dimension to this well of fine songs.


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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