Sunday, May 07, 2006

Grant McLennan: RIP

Via Brad, the shocking news that Grant McLennan is dead at 48.

McLennan, with Robert Forster, led my favorite-ever Australian band, The Go-Betweens. It is famously said that when the Velvet Underground released their first record in 1967—the "banana album" produced and designed by Andy Warhol—it wasn't a big success but every person who bought it started a band. McLennan originally wanted to become a film critic, but musically fascinated by the Velvets, formed the Go-Betweens with Forster in the late 70's. Their first single was "Lee Remick."

In the early 80's they moved from Brisbane to England, arriving in the right place at the wrong time. The landscape was aglitter with colored-haired "New Romantic" synth-pop bands, and their sparse and ungimmicky guitar-based sound wasn't going to set the marketplace on fire. But they caught—and kept—a strong critical following all through the 80's, making a succession of superbly-written and tastefully-arranged records. (You don't often hear violin and oboe in rock arrangements.) They broke up at the end of the decade but then reformed in 2000.

Some nice examples of McLennan's work:

  • "The Statue" off Go-Betweens' Oceans Apart, one of last year's best records.

  • "Haven't I Been A Fool" from McLennan's solo album Watershed (1992). A good example of both his clear tenor and his trademark romanticism.

  • "Right Here" off Tallulah (1987), the Go-Betweens record I've played most often.

Now to return to spinning more Go-Betweens on this sunny sad spring morning.

29 Comments:

Blogger girish said...

Mr. Outer Life is such a brilliant blogger-writer.
His new post: NSFW.
Not sure how to describe it but it has a long and detailed consideration of female anatomy...

May 07, 2006 9:20 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey, there's brilliance all around this morning.
A collection of "booty jams" at emusic chosen and annotated by John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats:
"It's sad truth that booty jams never got anybody laid. Oh, it may seem like they did, once the sun's come up and all the Hpnotiq's drained out of your system: the moon was bright, the music was right, and... well, let's face it, Charlie (or Charlize) — the person who dropped trou for you when the bass got deep last night was gonna give it up anyway. The music just set the scene."

May 07, 2006 9:25 AM  
Blogger girish said...

It's official:
Brian's the bestest linkmeister out there, save David Hudson!

May 07, 2006 9:47 AM  
Blogger Richard Gibson said...

I can't believe it. I'm shocked.

'Lee Remick' bw/ 'Karen' one of the best singles of all time. The Go Between's, one of my favourites too.

Very sad.

May 07, 2006 10:18 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Yes, Richard. Very sad indeed. Playing him this morning, his voice sounds more melancholy than usual...

Another post spurred by a passing:
The Siren and Alida.

May 07, 2006 11:29 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Zach on Dreyer, Fulci, Horror and Film Form.

May 07, 2006 1:28 PM  
Anonymous Darren said...

Thanks for the tunes, Girish. I don't think I'd heard The Go-Betweens before, though Forster's voice sounds strangely familiar to me. I especially like "The Statue." I love a pop song with unexpected chord changes.

P.S. Joanna just walked in and said "The Statue" reminds her of Echo and the Bunnymen. Maybe that's who I'm thinking of, too?

May 07, 2006 7:12 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

I found "the Statue" to be reminiscent of my own favorite Aussie band, The Church. "Right Here" sounds so familiar that I think I must have heard it before at some point, perhaps . I certainly have heard of The Go-Betweens, even if I've never had a fully formed impression of who they are or what they sound like, until now. Thanks for spreading the word, girish.

As for my linky posts, I'm glad they're appreciated, but I don't think I've earned the right to be mentioned in the same sentence as Mr. Hudson, who I could never match (and wouldn't try to). The fact that he does it pretty much every single day is particularly staggering.

May 07, 2006 9:37 PM  
Anonymous Darren said...

The Church! That's it, exactly. I didn't realize they were from Australia. I only know The Church's singles, which I loved in the late-'80s and now. Are any of their albums especially good?

May 07, 2006 10:20 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, fellas.

That's wild--just like Joanna, I thought of Echo and the Bunnymen today too while listening to the Go-Betweens, and I'd never made that connection before. (The vocals sounded Ian McCulloch-ish sometimes.)

And I'm not sure if you had a chance to see the YouTube video of "Bachelor Kisses" (with McLennan singing lead vocal) at the Pitchfork site that I linked to, but it's on this page. It's a really great song.

Brian, interesting you should mention the Church, because McLennan formed a group with Steve Kilbey of the Church after the breakup of the Go-Betweens in the late 80s.

Of the Church records I've heard, the one I probably liked most is called "Starfish"..

May 07, 2006 10:31 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Brian, did you have any recommendations for Church records? I'd love to hear 'em.

May 07, 2006 10:36 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Yeah, thanks for the MP3s, Girish. I was never all that familiar with The Go-Betweens. Good music, crafty songwriting.

Very sad news about McLennan. 48's too young.

That Church album, Starfish, is pretty good. I'd too be interested in what Brian has to say about other albums.

May 07, 2006 11:08 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey thanks, Michael. My pleasure.

May 08, 2006 7:00 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Mark Asch sees 3 Altman films.

May 08, 2006 7:01 AM  
Blogger girish said...

James Wolcott on the Stephen Colbert roast.

May 08, 2006 7:03 AM  
Anonymous girish said...

Just realized that the McLennan solo tune mp3 I posted ("Haven't I Been A Fool") contains the following line: "Tell the funeral man/I don't like powder on my face."

May 08, 2006 9:54 AM  
Blogger andyhorbal said...

Re: The Church -

I like their first album, Of Skins and Heart. It's a much sparer, much leaner version of the wonderful psychedelia-influenced pop on Starfish. "The Unguarded Moment" is a lovely song.

Stay away from The Church: it's just Of Skins and Heart watered down and re-released for America.

The only other album I know well is Gold Afternoon Fix. "Metropolis" is a nice song. It has the same jangly, baroque sound as "Under the Milky Way Tonight". The album, though, is uneven.

May 08, 2006 12:14 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Andy--"Under The Milky Way Tonight"; I remember playing the heck out of that on cassette way back in 1990.

This is totally cool:
Rich Juzwiak does an Abel Ferrara post that I'll be adding to our blog-a-thon links list.

May 08, 2006 4:01 PM  
Blogger andyhorbal said...

Such a fantastic song... one of my mix tape favorites.

May 08, 2006 6:23 PM  
Blogger girish said...

I remember those gorgeous multitracked acoustic guitars....You know, I don't think I have that song anymore. Think I'll go try to iTunes it tonight.

May 08, 2006 6:41 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

girish, while you're prowling for Ferrara posts, I just noticed Nick Schager's Bad Lieutenant review today.

I feel like I have the spotlight on me as a Church expert now. Truth be told, I only own one of their albums, Priest=Aura which I really love. But other albums are widely played among a certain circle of my friends. I think they're still making excellent music; 1998's Hologram of Baal and 2002's After Everything Now This are definitely good ones. I should try to be more systematic about hearing all their stuff, since I've always liked what I've heard. I also agree with the Starfish love.

May 08, 2006 11:35 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Hey, thanks, Brian.
Much appreciated.

Here's Michael with part 2 of his "Moreau, Malle and Miles" post; and he's got mp3's.

May 09, 2006 6:49 AM  
Blogger girish said...

David on The Proposition.

May 09, 2006 6:50 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Gold Mine:
Basement Tapes at Flickhead.

May 09, 2006 6:52 AM  
Anonymous jmac said...

I like these songs, G.

May 09, 2006 1:58 PM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

Speaking of ole' Abel, there was a surprise, almost unannounced (and free) showing of Mary at the end of the Tribeca Film Festival. Though it was at midnight, and I was beyond exhausted, I simply had to see it. Aaron Cinephiliac and I got there two hours early, just to ensure we would get tickets.

The bar that is connected to the Tribeca Cinema was hosting a post-awards party, and the crowd consisted (mostly) of young, self-important posers. Sitting at the bar, bored and annoyed, I noticed a short, hunched-over, very drunk man who seemed unable to stand still. After joking with Aaron that it looked like Abel Ferrara, we soon realized it WAS Abel Ferrara. I offered to buy him a drink, which he accepted, but wandered away before it arrived. Additional attempts to speak with him yielded similar results -- he was good for about ten seconds and then he'd stagger off in another direction. (Aaron even attempted to explain our Blogathon to him.)

Several of Ferrara's regulars were there, including Matthew Modine, who watched the film as well. (Had he not seen it?) The film was fantastic, though not at all what I expected. I desperately need to see it again -- at an earlier hour and with less alcohol in my blood.

May 09, 2006 2:15 PM  
Blogger girish said...

J. ~ Glad you liked 'em. More on the way in a minute...

Filmbrain ~ What an amazing story.
"Aaron even attempted to explain our Blogathon to him." That's hilarious.
See--another reason to envy you New Yorkers.
You probably have experiences like this all the time...

May 09, 2006 2:26 PM  
Blogger eek said...

The most beautiful tributes I have read about Grant were written by Steve Kilbey of The Church on his blog. SK talks about Grant as a fan, as a collegue, and as a friend. I found these entries very touching. Steve and Grant formed Jack Frost and released two albums -- Jack Frost in 1991 and Snow Job in 1996 (SK gives background on them in a couple of the entries on McLennan). I'm sorry, but I am clueless on how to link in the comments section. You will have to cut and paste. But these entries are worth the work to read:

http://stevekilbey.blogspot.com/2006/05/teenage-rasputin-takes-sting-from-gin_07.html

http://stevekilbey.blogspot.com/2006/05/you-can-sing-that-everything-takes.html

http://stevekilbey.blogspot.com/2006/05/wouldnt-ya-know-it-thats-how-life-ends.html

As for The Church (my favourite band ever) Starfish is an excellent starting point although I feel all their albums have their charms (though some of their albums admittedly have fewer charms than others). For those who like acoustic/semi acoustic versions they released El Momento Descuidado in 2004. It has several of their older songs, including The Unguarded Moment and Under The Milky Way, as well as five new songs. In fact, this album was nominated for an ARIA award, but lost to the Go-Betweens Oceans Apart last year. And their newest album, Uninvited, Like The Clouds was just released last month. They are doing a few shows in Eurrope in May and June and may be doing some shows in the US this summer as well.

You can check out a few of their new songs on their Myspace site:
http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewprofile&friendid=70141931

The individual members also have their own Myspace sites with samples of their solo music. Those sites are listed on the main Church Myspace site.

(again, I can't link worth a damn. Sorry.)

May 10, 2006 3:04 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks for all the links!

May 10, 2006 10:28 AM  

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