Sprawl of Sound
A Grant of Great Generosity
"The project was just a spontaneous burst of love from the heart. I feel I owed it to Grant for all the incredible years of Go-Betweens music. They were my Beatles, if you will." So says David James Buckner, a die-hard Long Beach fan of the defunct Australian pop group. Beloved by a small but intensely faithful American fan base, the Go-Betweens flourished from 1977 to 1989, releasing six immaculate albums in that span, yet they never achieved the lofty level of commercial success their fervent champions thought they deserved.
The band's two excellent singer/songwriters, Robert Forster (tart and dark) and Grant McLennan (sweet and light), maintained solo careers throughout the '90s, then reunited the Go-Betweens in 2000 with help from Sleater-Kinney. The re-formed Go-Betweens released The Friends of Rachel Worth (2000) and Oceans Apart (2005), but most critics agreed that these works didn't sail as high as the group's '80s material. My favorite remains 1986's Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express, which helped me get through a horrid bout of depression.
When McLennan passed away at age 48 in May 2006, James mourned ("[McLennan's death] tore at me for weeks")—and then sprang into action, prompted by his wife, Sherri. They conceived a memorial by assembling an international cast of fellow appreciators who could do sonic justice to the revered tunesmith's legacy. The result is Love Goes On: A Tribute to Grant McLennan on the couple's Rare Victory label.
"[F]or the past 16 months, I've been quietly collecting songs from various indie bands for a tribute to Grant," Buckner says. "It's turned out better than I could have ever conjured. [All of the bands] recorded on their own dime." Now, that's love.
"The songs are just flat-out amazing versions of Grant's music with the Go-Betweens and his solo work."
Rare Victory's legwork has paid off handsomely. Love Goes On features 17 artists covering McLennan's timeless, featherweight tunes with the sort of precious sensitivity the Brisbane master would've appreciated, though none matches the wistful euphoria of his originals. Brookville capture the hushed grandeur of "Haunted House"; GB3's lilting jangle blossoms into a Beach Boys-esque hymn on "Devil's Eye"; the Clientele's "Orpheus Beach" finesses sinuous chamber pop that's as smooth and creamy as meringue; Ed Kuepper (of the legendary Saints and Laughing Clowns) stirs marrow with his stark, haunting rendition of "Finding You"; Private Eleanor gracefully maneuver around the lissome contours of "Love Goes On"; Stars gamely tackle the indelible lurch of "Cattle and Cane"; and Ivy's breezy, orchestral cha-cha take on "Streets of Your Town" is utterly delightful. The disc's only real disappointment is Kelman's deathly dull "Apology Accepted," which flattens the swoon-worthy melody from one of McLennan's most sublimely heartfelt compositions. But that's a rare flub on a tribute that should put a sparkle in the eyes of Grant's earnest tribe of admirers.
Buckner is quoted in the liner notes by Big Takeover scribe Jack Rabid: "[H]onoring Grant has helped dissipate the initial despair we felt at his loss, helping to bring a little magnificence out of the melancholy." That's an astute summary of McLennan's own songwriting.
Garden Grove DJ/producer and Abstract Workshop overseer Cocoe Tsimahidis (a.k.a. Dee Jay Cocoe) drops the Webale EPMonday through the respected Immigrant Records. The 12-inch features three versions of "Webale Mukama Wange"; LA techno vet Dean DeCosta and Fuckpony (a.k.a. Jay Haze) provide remixes in digital-only form. Cocoe's original clanks and throbs in a subliminal manner, somewhere between dub and low-slung tech-house, while Long Beach vocalist Mukwenda chants in spiritual timbres. The vinyl Fuckpony rejig is a deep, tribal-house slow-burner, bathed in reverbed, soulful vocals. Powered by hand percussion and face-slapping beats, the track's imbued with a hypnotic aura via an ingeniously warped keyboard sample from what sounds like Bob James' "Nautilus." (I could be way off-base, but it sure sounds familiar.) Alejandro Vivanco's remix is even more mesmerizing, bloopier and texturally weirder, seemingly played on a xylophone made of ice. DeCosta emphasizes the wooden percussion tonality and adds a nice little metallic shimmy to the rhythm. Fuckpony's "Digital Dub" beefs up the bass frequencies, stresses the whip-crack beats and cleverly layers the vocals into a hall-of-mirrors cascade. Expect much dance-floor damage in the coming months from Webale.
Cocoe is currently working on another EP for Immigrant while also laboring on a full-length. "My album is going to be across the board, so I want to put it in the right hands," Cocoe says. "It's my priority right now. Most of the tracks are done; [I'm] just bringing in different artists to work on it and add some more elements to my tracks, from hip-hop to techno." He projects a mid-2008 release.
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