Alternative music reviews

May 7, 2006

Grant McLennan

Filed under: nostalgia — @ 10:47 pm Comments (0)

1978. One night, in a bedsit in Coventry a 19 year old boy was listening to the John Peel show. A song by some unknown band was playing. After the first two lines of the song, the boy spins around in his chair and reaches for the tape recorder, causing the chair to fall over but in an unparallelled act of athleticism he manages from a supine position to hit the Play and Record buttons simultaneously. The song was Karen, the b-side of the first single by an Australian band: The Go-Betweens

So began a love affair that has never quite ended. More reliable and constant and long-lasting than any other love affair I’ve known. The Go-Betweens were a combination of two of the finest songwriters of my generation. In my pantheon of taste, there is noise, aural assault, depressive epics but only One Great Pop Group. One band who wrote the best melodic songs of hopeless or inspiring love. One band that with a couple of guitars and occasionally with a violin, could create atmospheres of spring rain, hot dark nights, stillness, and how a broken heart can heal.

Strangely enough, when the go-Betweens split the solo albums of Robert Forster and Grant McLennan were never as satisfying as them together. Even so, I always saw them when either one played Manchester. Then in 2000 they got back together and have just continued producing great records. Simply put, you can play James Blunt, Coldplay or whatever pop music to me – but how could love it? I have lived my life listening to better pop music than they could ever hope to reproduce.

Of the two songwriters, Grant McLennan was the one that wrote the pure romantic epics while Robert Forster was on the more quirky side. I love them both – they have provided a song for just about every heartache, jealousy, empathy I have felt.

Yesterday, Grant McLennan died unexpectedly in his sleep aged just 48.

I’ll borrow someone else’s words here. They did an acoustic perfomance on a Santa Monica radio show and this is the reaction of the Host, Deirdre O’Donaghue to Grant singing Quiet Heart:

“Everytime I think that it’s been completely done and I feel as though I’m absolutely, totally, permanently jaded, The Go-Betweens come along with a new record and take me apart cell by cell.”

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