Friday, February 22, 2008

The Evangelist

I was fortunate to receive a copy of Robert Forster’s new album, The Evangelist, his first solo album in 11 years, last week. There are 10 songs:

If It Rains
Forster has obviously not got "out of folk and into rare groove"; the opener sets a sombre tone – complete with thunderstorm sound effects – but offers relief that although having the same production team as The Go-Betweens’ final album, Oceans Apart, it isn’t going to suffer from that album’s weak standing.

I know that many people celebrate The Go-Betweens’ ninth album, Oceans Apart, as a classic, but to my ears it’s almost as bad as their first album, Send Me A Lullaby. Both Robert and Grant were ruefully aware that their “odd numbered” albums were less artistically successful than their even numbered.

Of course, The Evangelist is not a Go-Betweens album; it's a Robert Forster album, with three songs co-written with Grant, but with obvious links to various past Go-Betweens moments.

Demon Days
Co-written with Grant, this torchlight song features a wistful melody, maudlin strings and the refrain “something’s not right/something’s gone wrong”. Hmm. Maybe the song’s about Grant.

Fans will know that in rock’n’roll terms, The Go-Betweens always took the chequered flag. Pandanus captures the vim and vitality of Robert’s Spring Hill Fair songs and, even with this more downbeat take, the chequered flag is still in sight.

Did She Overtake You
Robert in familiar mood as he imagines himself playing Bob Dylan’s 1966 black Stratocaster. I can hear a little bit of the Modern Lovers’ adolescent exuberance in there, too. A natural successor to Bright Yellow Bright Orange's Make Her Day.

I asked Forster at the time of release about the similarities between Maker Her Day and Roadrunner. He raised his eyebrows and exclaimed: “I know! I don’t know where that came from, because I’m 46 and that’s the sort of song that would come from a 19-year-old. I’m as surprised – and pleased – as anyone.” (slight paraphrase, as from memory)

The Evangelist
A song about Forster’s German wife, Karin:
I took her out of her home
A cabin near the woods
And took her to this desert
With threatening neighbourhoods.

There’s some almost flamenco flourishes on this - if you can imagine an acoustic take on The Clarke Sisters you're getting close.

Following his marriage, Forster claimed that he’d “fulfilled every Australian male’s fantasy by marrying into the brewing industry”. I asked him about this 5 years ago and he dismissed his earlier comment with good humour, saying that as his wife’s from Bavaria, almost everyone there is involved in the brewing industry; his father-in-law’s brewing interests did not in fact make him a brewing heir.

Let Your Light In, Babe
Violins reel tipsily, camp fires burn brightly and country music’s spirit is evoked. This song joyously recalls Don’t Call Me Gone.

A Place To Hideaway
If there were an acoustic version of Liberty Belle, this song would be included. Go-Betweens fans will know that there is no higher praise.

Don’t Touch Anything
That wild mercury sound is back! This time, Forster contemplates ageing and reflects on his maturity to the musical backing of a teen pop masterpiece. You might remember Forster’s comments on The Go-Betweens’ debut single, Karen:
Nineteen-years-old, depressed, nervous and probably distrustful [I made] the decision not to write about Universal Themes, but about my feelings in the bedroom, Brisbane, driving my car and anything from overheard conversations.

This song does just that.

It Ain’t Easy
Co-written with Grant, Robert’s lyrics are a tribute to his soul mate:
It was a head trip it was a friendship
He picked me up when I might have tripped

A sly grin that played to win
We will not see his kind again

I write these words to a tune
That he wrote on a full moon
And a river ran and a train ran
Through everything he did

I wonder if there’s an echo of Head Full Of Steam in this song. I think there is. Obviously, that’s an entirely good thing.

From Ghost Town
The album closes with a simple piano riff driving this touching elegy to Grant:
I hope I get it right as I go on
As I move on it’s strong what remains
For a thousand years it will not fade

There are places he could’ve stayed
But he had to go cause he loved the rain

There were hearts there were places
But he couldn’t love them because he couldn’t love himself

And he knew more than I knew
And I hated what he hated too

The Evangelist is released 21st April 2008. The cover art, above, is, er, interesting, no?

Let Your Light In, Babe will be released as a download-only single by Tuition on 3rd March 2008. The track is coupled with Demon Days. Both tracks featured on the single are 'radio edits'.

Pre-emptive strike: no, I will not upload this album.


michelerui79 said...

I just can't wait!

Eponymous said...

Appetite whetted by that very evocative review (preview?).

As for the cover... well, yes... I think I could've made something better on a magnadoodle... And just how old is that picture of Robert? Still, I take heart that, just like the odd/even issue you mention, some of the best Go-Betweens albums had some of the worst covers.

Wasn't there also something about having to have two "L's' in the title to try to emulate the success of Michael Jackson's "Thriller". But that was a GBs tradition and this is not a GB's album... much as we may wish it to be such.

FireEscape said...

I asked GM at the time of BYBO whether they'd accepted that they'd never outsell Thriller. He laughed like a drain and admitted it wasn't any longer a target. RF claimed complete innoncence about the double 'l' in BYBO, saying it was an accident and they were surprised, but it was the right title and it just coincidentally had a double 'l'.
One of my friends refuses to believe 16 Lovers Lane is a GBs album as it doesn't have a double 'l'. I don't go that far, but I would've have the Lost album to have been called Llost.

Bob, Brisbane, Australia said...

How did you get that, Has it been released yet?
Thanks for the wonderful review,
I'm going to see Robert on saturday night so I'm hoping the new album will feature in his performance and maybe the cd will be for sale at the gig.
ciao bob

FireEscape said...

It's out (in the UK, at least) on 21 April.
The label sent me a copy.