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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."

Customer Reviews

Their best studio work

This is the Go-Bee's finest album, lyrically and musically. In particular, the song "Five Words" is the most beautiful music they've made, and they've made a lot of beautiful music. The real surprise is in the second "bonus" disc packaged with the Rounder reissues in the early Naughts. Some of those songs, likely explained away by the band as "sketches" or "works in progress" or some such, are just jaw-dropping, mind-juddering masterpieces. No? Listen to "Emperor's Courtesan", so white it's funky, "Rare Breed", Robert Forster at his most urgent and wrong (dig the mistake-y synth thing that starts it). Had enough yet? "Newton Told Me" is simply neo-(paleo-)-Dylanism, one of Grant and Robert's founding touch-stones (if there are, in fact, antipodean touch-stones). "Attraction" is yet another pinnacle. This track is simply the first-ever Math-Rock song. Gorgeous. 'Second-Hand Furniture", the old-fridges-and-chairs-as-symbols-for-the-detritus-of-a-dead-relationship gambit. This is a particularly fecund lyrical pool that no one can ever dive in again; their 1st dip being that good. "Sweet Tasting Hours" bows us out, with the only vocals I know of by drummer Lindy Morrison, which is a shame. The only clunker is the final (instrumental) version of the incredible "Unwise and Unkind" - the type of brilliance that by name alone assures failure in the U.S. I just live here, man. I thought Grant and Robert would have said that not wanting to be a band that releases the same track, only w/o vocals, as a B-Side as another founding inspiration. Your fans miss you G.W., and Robert, your fans need you the most. A+

Biography

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...
Full Bio