The Australian band the Go-Betweens could be one of the most respected yet unknown bands to emerge in the past 25 years. Their mellow and wistful pop music has remained under the radar since the group formed in 1978. The Go- Betweens is comprised of singer/songwriters Robert Forster and Grant McLennan along with drummer Glenn Thompson and bassist/keyboardist Adele Pickvance. The duo recorded several albums in the 1980s including the acclaimed 16 Lovers Lane in 1989. Soon after, the group split up for eleven years to focus on solo projects. Luckily, Forester and McLennan rejoined at the turn of the century with their first album reunited, Friends of Rachel Worth, then followed it up with the average Bright Yellow Bright Orange in 2003. Now comes Ocean’s Apart, a pop album filled with idyllic ruminations on the past.
The strongest track is the opener, “Here Comes a City,” a jangling guitar driven song with a contagious melodic chorus and gritty somewhat spoken vocals. The next track, “Finding You,” is another affable track. This one’s slower with more introspection with such wayward lyrics as: “Don’t know where I’m going/don’t know where it’s flowing.” A big portion of the album focuses on the past and memories, tears and looking back with retrospection much like the band members themselves. On these songs the group becomes reminiscent of fellow Aussie popsters The Church, or Brit pop in the realm of Robyn Hitchcock on these songs. The best tracks on the album are the ones where the dulcet sounds encompass the vocals such as on “Born into a Family,” a more upbeat track with sing songy lyrics and a fluid and rambunctious chorus. By track five, the album peaks with “Boundary Rider,” a keyboard and acoustic guitar fused song with that creates a solemn mood with the sage lyric: “And to know yourself is to be yourself.”
The rest of the album continues with songs about places, homes, traveling, lost spaces and moments and becomes less interesting as the album progresses. Forster and McLennan both take their turn singing vocals, but the former is definitely the stronger singer of the two. Songs like the country inspired “The Mountains Near Dellray” and “Darlinghurst Nights” where McLennan sings lead become overwrought, thus don’t quite work as well. For the most part, The Go-Betweens have recorded a satisfying record that evokes palpable feelings and emotions yet becomes a bit uneven at the end. Despite that, the album is worth it for the first three tracks alone.