The Go-Betweens - 16 Lovers Lane - Review
← 619 album.png 621 →

critics' view

The Go-Betweens remind me of whooping cranes: great gangling creatures capable of heights of gracefulness when in flight and passionate spasms when in heat. Similarly, the Go-Betweens infuse portentious poetry into giddy pop structures, then throw the uncertain songs in the air, whispering "Fly or fuck." On 16 Lovers Lane, the sixth album in their ten year career, the Go-Betweens do a lot of both. The address sounds like their natural habitat. You can almost picture the place - a quiet house on a rainy cobblestone street. "A writer's retreat, maybe" Robert Forster, the most gangling, morose and poetic half of the Go-Betweens' songwriting team, describes it in "You Can't Say No Forever": "Sheltered and lonely there/The fireplace and a rocking chair." It's not the same isolated "house Jack Kerouac built" of the Go-Betweens' last album Tallulah. The bands current domicile is strategically located on that most romantic of roadways, Lovers Lane.

These Australians, still lost and lonely souls, are actively seeking love these days. Like whooping cranes bobbing their heads back and forth, unfolding and spreading their wings, letting out a ringing, unearthly cry, the Go-Betweens' mating ritual is an awesome spectacle: violins sweep, bass drums pulsate, guitars shimmer, vocals shake. Oboes, keyboards, crashing crescendos, diminutive diminuendos, thunder, lightning, the stars - all the grand dramatic gestures and emotional outpourings that make the Great Love Songs of pop music the only unconfounded statements of human condition that we moderns, guiltily, cling to - they're all here. Saintly romantics who merge Monkees mania with Goethe's sorrows, the Go-Betweens teeter between too much and just enough. Thankfully, on 16 Lovers Lane, there's more gush than mush. The record does have its putrid moments. Most of these - the cloying "ba-da-dums" of "Love Goes On," the annoying whistle sounds at the end of "Can't Say No" - are due to producer Mark Wallis's tendency to over-embellish. Fortunately, the distractions in the new surroundings are merely observers' blinds, not a wholly artificial environment.

In general, Wallis bathes the band's songs with a lushness that makes their declarations of love all the more unabashed. Lindy Morrison's drums sound like the surf breaking over huge boulders on a barren beach, while Forster and Grant McLennan - the band's more amiable, less awkward, better crooning songwriter - stand over the ocean's edge, flailing their acoustic guitars and wailing their songs to amours on some distant shore. The album traces a quest for True Love that begins with the usual idealizations: love is a comfort ("Quiet Heart"), an eternal ideal ("Love Goes On"), a symbol ("Love Is A Sign"), an inevitability ("You Can't Say No Forever"), and a vestige of beauty in a desolate world ("I know with you/ I've never seen the devil's eye"). Routed by reality (rejection, betrayal, and domestic violence), the songwriters learn that love can be blinding as well as blind. "If you spend your life looking behind you/You don't see what's up front." Die-hard romantics, the Go-Betweens close the album with Forster's vow to dive for at least the memory of love. I can picture him too - leaping off the boulders, sliding gracefully through the air, sweeping up his catch. and whooping one last mating call as he flies off to Lover's Lane.

Evelyn McDonnell
Spin external-link.png

Spin is an American music magazine founded in 1985 by publisher Bob Guccione, Jr. The magazine stopped running in print in 2012 and currently runs as a webzine, owned by the Billboard-Hollywood Reporter Media Group division of Valence Media external-link.png
twitter.png facebook.png

Care to share?

(if so, thanks!)

© The Jukebox Rebel 2005-2020. All rights reserved. Third-party trademarks and content are the property of their respective owners, and subject to their own copyright terms and conditions. See the website links provided in each case.