11 May 2006

Instant Replay

I was one of the unfortunates who didn't discover the Go-Betweens until sometime in 2003. I stumbled across some tracks from Bright Yellow Bright Orange on the now-defunct site epitonic.com* and fell in love with McLennan and Forster's honest song writing and delivery. Since then, I've wanted to see them live, and regret that I didn't do so during the last tour promoting the much-praised Oceans Apart. I can't remember why I didn't. With the sad news that Grant McLennan died this past Saturday, I'm wishing for my own instant replay...

With the Jetset issued version of Bright Yellow Bright Orange, apparently available only in some US stores and which I was fortunate to pick up, came a bonus disc with four tracks, including Instant Replay by Grant and Girl Lying on a Beach by Robert Forster, two of my favorite Go-Betweens songs of any. This is why I've discontinued my e-music.com subscription; I am unwilling to miss these wonderful surprises, and unwilling to forgo album art. The cover of Bright Yellow Bright Orange is so perfectly reflective of the content...light, sweet, direct (see "Listening" column to the right; it reminds me of one work by the copy shop artist modasfolk).

When I heard of Grant's passing on Monday, I felt as I did when I heard that Joe Strummer had gone. By all reports, Grant, like Joe, was a fantastic human being. Grant died suddenly and much too young, like Joe, both at a time when they were, in my opinion, producing some of their most interesting work. While Grant's songs were much more personal on the whole than Joe's social commentary, they moved me in a very similar way...there was something of Grant and Joe in their songs, something more intimate that reached me in a way that a lot of songwriters fail to achieve. The Brisbane gallery Inkahoots has posted a tribute on their website that includes the following passage, summing up Grant more beautifully than I could hope to:

Rarely his sentimentality would over-ripen a song, but mostly he could stun you with crystallised buried truth, deeper and more direct than nostalgia. He was a romantic in all the best senses of the word. And he could rock and he could roll with equal conviction.

Go-Betweens.net has posted a tribute to Grant, and the discussion board has more than 1000 personal memorials now, some from recognizable music names. Robert Forster has posted a lovely reply to these. As for me, Bright Yellow Bright Orange and Oceans Apart have been in constant rotation, and I've been doing something that I often do when thinking about Joe...wondering what Grant would approve of and mixing it in, or mixing in albums that have a sometimes unidentifiable similar quality. Today it's the Magnetic Fields' I and Edwyn Collins' Gorgeous George (on hometown label fave, BarNone)...

Post-script: Justin Cober-Lake, another recent fan and music writer at Popmatters, has posted a memorial worth visiting.

Post-post-script: The sad details emerge in a Village Voice piece by one of my favorite music writers, Robert Christgau.

*epitonic.com was one of my favorite sites for discovering new music; I loved it's "if you like this, you might like this" feature, and the streaming 'radio' was excellent. It is still online and you can still stream some good, obscure stuff, but the site hasn't been updated since sometime in 2004, when it was bought by Palm Pictures. Palm doesn't not response to any inquiries regarding epitonic's status, nor inquiries from those wanting to invest labor to resurrect it.

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