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16 Lovers Lane (Remastered)

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Album Review

Arguably Australia's greatest pop group ever, The Go-Betweens seemed to save the best for last when they split in 1989. (They reunited in 1999, and have issued two more studio recordings since that time). 16 Lovers Lane is simply breathtaking; it is a deeply moving, aurally sensual collection of songs about relationships and the broken side of love that never lapses into cheap sentimentality or cynicism. Songwriters Robert Forster and Grant McLennan had always been visionary when it came to charting personal and relational melancholy and heartbreak, but here, their resolve focused on charting the depths of the romantic's soul when it has been disillusioned or crestfallen, is simply and convincingly taut. While it's true that the group was going through its own version of a soap opera-styled romantic saga, that emotional quagmire seemingly fueled its energies and focus, resulting in an album so texturally rich, lyrically sharp, and musically honest, its effect is nothing less than searing on an any listener who doesn't have sawdust instead of blood in his or her veins.

Opening with McLennan's "Love Goes On," the stage is set for a kind of refined yet primal emotional transference that pop music is rarely capable of revealing. As he sings: "There are times when I want you/I want you so much I could bust/I know a thing about lovers/Lovers lie down in trust/The people next door they got problems/They got things they can't name/I know about things about lovers/ Lovers don't feel any shame/Late not night when the light's down low/The candle burns to the end/I know a thing about darkness/Darkness ain't my friend/Love goes on anyway," the doorway to the heart and its secrets opens. In the grain of his voice lie the flowers in the dustbin whose names are desperation and affirmation. With its hyperactive acoustic guitars, Amanda Brown's cooing string arrangements, and the deftly layered, subtly played brass instruments, the tune becomes a gauzy anthem; it celebrates the ravaged heart as a beacon of strained hope in the entryway to a hall of bewilderment. He follows it with "Quiet Heart," a song whose opening was admittedly influenced in structure by U2's "With Or Without You," but blows it away lyrically and with its subtly shifting melody and harmony between the guitars. Brown's multi-layered strings actually stride the backbeat's pulse. His protagonist speaks to an absent lover. His ache offers a view of his own weakness, desperation, and an all-consuming tenderness: "I tried to tell you/But I can only say when we're apart/How I miss your quiet, quiet heart."

Forster seems to underline McLennan' s raw emotionalism with his painterly, nearly baroque, "Love Is A Sign," where images from visual art, remembered scenarios, and real life brokenness intermingle effortlessly with the elegance of mandolins, a string orchestra, and a shimmering bassline. With "Streets Of Your Town," the Go-Betweens scored a minor hit in the U.K., and even got played on American radio for a moment, but despite the fact that it has the most memorable hook on a record filled with them, it merely underscores how constant the quality is on the record. Evidenced further by "The Devil's Eye," and the shattering closer "Dive For Your Memory," 16 Lovers Lane is melancholy and somber in theme, but gloriously and romantically presented. Despite the fact that band has but a cult following, even in the 21st century, the Go-Betweens have nonetheless given us a far more literate, magnificently written, performed, and produced slab of pop classicism, than Fleetwood Mac's wonderfully coked out, love as co-dependency fest, Rumours.

Customer Reviews

Should've been a contender

The allmusic review is accurate. Lengthy. I've known this album since it was released. At first too glossy. I actually saw them on this tour and spent a few hours drinking the night away afterwards. Some members thought it overproduced. With time it's perfect. Buy it and take time to fall in love with all the things that are right and wrong with love. It is a modern day Rumours... and that's about 18 years later than the release... but it sounds that modern. I'm writing this on the day I found out Grant McLennan passed away this past weekend. I hope where he is now he can make and be surrounded by music this sweet.

Best Album of the 80’s.

I only discovered the Go-Betweens after Grant McLennan died (thank you All Music Guide). This is one of those rare albums that is stunning throughout and its impact is not at all diminished after repeated listening (which is well over 100 times in less than a year for me). It’s also one of those albums that requires a few listens before the greatness is detected. Friends I’ve played it for shrug after the first listen but are unanimous in their praise after the third or fourth time through. The Go-Betweens didn’t have an amazing musician like Eric Clapton or an incredible vocalist but they were one of those “sum of the parts” outfits (like the Beatles) where everything (at least on this record) fits together in a cohesive package – the songwriting, the production, the lyrics, the instrumentation, the vocals. A lot has been said about outstanding tracks such as “Love Goes On”, “Dive for Your Memory”, “Streets of Your Town” but my personal favorite is “Clouds” with my favorite line “blue air I crave, blue air I breathe, they once chopped my heart, the way they chop a tree.” It's amazing in its consistent quality (there are no real weak tunes here) and really should have been the top album of the 80’s.

Streets of my Town

When I started to reach back into the music of my college yrs., this was the first one I had to have on CD. My LP's have been boxed for the better part of 15 yrs. now and so many of the great ones from that period were only played in my head. "Love Goes On" and "Streets of your Town" are classics that slipped by most of you.

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...
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