By Thomas Bond
When Grant McLennan, co-founder of The Go-Betweens, died of a heart attack two years ago today at the age of 48, it brought the curtain down on one of Australia's finest ever bands. Now, fellow Go-Betweens co-founder Robert Forster pays touching tribute to his late songwriting partner on his new solo album, “The Evangelist,” as well as bringing to light McLennan's final compositions.
By turns elegiac and celebratory, “The Evangelist” is the finest of Forster's five solo efforts, the first four of which were released while The Go-Betweens were on hiatus during the 1990s. On it, he plays with bassist Adele Pickvance and drummer Glenn Thompson, both of whom had joined The Go-Betweens when Forster and McLennan reconvened the band for the new century.
The sound of the new disc is definitely of a piece with the three post-reunion GB discs, yet missing an obvious presence. This is acknowledged in the simple and moving song “Demon Days” as Forster sings “But something's not right, something's gone wrong.” It's all the more poignant when you read in the liner notes that the line was penned by McLennan.
On “It Ain't Easy,” another of three co-written tunes, Forster and company settle into McLennan's brisk pop groove while the singer honors his friend with lines such as “it was melody he loved most of all” and “we'll not see his kind again anymore.”
Just as a fine funeral service offers both fond memories of the deceased and hope for the future of the living, “The Evangelist” succeeds in being both Forster's homage to his fallen friend and his first musical steps forward without him. It's in stores now on Yep Roc Records.