Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Grant McLennan [extended]

  • Watershed [Beggars Banquet, 1991] A-
  • Fireboy [Beggars Banquet, 1994] **
  • Horsebreaker Star [Beggars Banquet/Atlantic, 1995] A-
  • In Your Bright Ray [Beggars Banquet, 1997] Neither
  • Intermission: The Best of the Solo Recordings 1990-1997 [Beggars Banquet, 2007]

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Consumer Guide Reviews:

G.W. McLennan: Watershed [Beggars Banquet, 1991]
The Go-Between with the weakness for wilderness was Robert Forster, a thoughtful guy given to rambling through the melodic underbrush. McLennan was the hooky one, and though at first I found his solo music irritatingly prefab, his techno tendencies have grown on me like a good Go-Betweens tune--the synthy guitar and hot drum programming put welcome glitz and steel into his romantic verse. In "Haven't I Been a Fool?" he's scrambling to cement the relationship he undermined. In "Just Get That Straight" he's trying to make the break final. In between he gets out of himself a lot. A-

Fireboy [Beggars Banquet, 1994]
living tunes in studio-rock amber ("The Dark Side of Town," "Riddle in the Rain," "Whose Side Are You On?") **

Horsebreaker Star [Beggars Banquet/Atlantic, 1995]
The pop Go-Between cut his most consistently catchy solo album by getting off the plane in Georgia and recording 30 snapshots of a resigned romantic, every damn one he had, with a producer and musicians he'd never met. The U.S. version borrows one track off the import-only Fireboy while dropping six from the worldwide double-CD, unrolling tune after sweet, simple-seeming tune for 77 minutes. My favorite lines involve, of all things, songs: "Really loved the one about those L.A. freaks/Did it take a day to write or was it weeks?"; runner-up is one of 24 examples of "Lovers living on what went wrong": "You can't find a kidney in Hong Kong." With too many backing vocals, not enough licks, and a rather mild lead singer, the pleasures emerge gradually, mmm by mmm and aha by aha. But play these songs five years from now and every one will be yours. A-

In Your Bright Ray [Beggars Banquet, 1997] Neither

Intermission: The Best of the Solo Recordings 1990-1997 [Beggars Banquet, 2007]
McLennan's fatal heart attack in May, 2006, ended Australia's Go-Betweens, a group nearly three decades old that after ten years off had reconvened convincingly in 2000, releasing three albums that promised many more. Twin compilations from their down period can't replace the follow-ups we'll never hear. McLennan, who wrote more easily than Forster--his best album was a double, Horsebreaker Star, while one of Forster's was all covers--gets a surefire album-by-album selection marred only by somewhat static production--the Go-Betweens were always interactive. There's ample proof of his pop gift in the wry, tender, gorgeous opener, "Haven't I Been a Fool," and unending evidence of his miraculously solid tunecraft thereafter. [Rolling Stone: 4.5]

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