I have never been to Australia, and perhaps it’s for the best. From listening to Australian pop acts such as the Go-Betweens and the Lucksmiths, I have formed an idea that their home country is a beautiful sunlit place where people happily burst into richer than homemade chocolate cake pop melodies without warning. No one even notices that they are all singing instead of speaking, and even the kangaroos stop whatever they’re doing when this happens and begin bouncing along to the music. Now, I doubt any of these events actually happen in Australia; so to avoid disappointment, I think it might be better for me to visit only the imaginary version I’ve constructed for the time being. Fortunately, those trips are easy enough to arrange while listening to the latest live release by The Go-Betweens, That Striped Sunlight Sound – especially since all the events catalogued on this two-disc set were actually recorded in Brisbane, Australia.
Of course, it is utterly sensible to not recommend a concert disc like this one to Go-Betweens newcomers – who, frankly, make up a large percentage of today’s American music listeners. The Go-Betweens were active throughout the ’80s, but for this generation of the terminally indie, probably their only really noticeable release occurred in 2000, when they made a collaborative comeback with all of Sleater-Kinney on The Friends of Rachel Worth. At the same time, however, this might just be a great place to start, simply because there is an energy in this stage performance (both in the visual and audio versions of the set) that doesn’t always translate into hearing a Go-Betweens studio disc. That Striped Sunlight Sound isn’t recommended for anyone who wants all of their live albums to be chock-full of rock and roll theatricality, but for anyone who’s a little lonely and needs to feel like they’re on a mid-summer picnic with a group of their best friends, then this music will definitely engrave its way onto your heart.
Perhaps less interesting to the neophyte – though potentially more rewarding – is the much-heralded acoustic set on the DVD. Yes, Go-Betweens fans, it is everything you imagined and more. Robert Forster and Grant McLennan sit in a room together and basically give every viewer the Go-Betweens conversation they’ve always wanted to have. The two songwriters discuss the texture and background of their songs, speak about the history of the group, and sound spectacular singing with acoustic guitar accompaniment. Granted, this might not be so interesting for non-fans; to the uninitiated, it can come across an awful lot like just two older Australian men talking about music. So while this reviewer did find what Forster and McLennan had to say very interesting, she can see where those who aren’t already plugged into the sunlit circuit of the Go-Betweens wouldn’t feel that spark.
In fact, such is the situation of this entire album: if you are already a Go-Betweens fan, honestly, That Striped Sunlight Sound is perfect for you. But, if you have yet to connect with this gentle band, then it would definitely be better to start elsewhere in their catalogue. And maybe that’s a good thing – after all, when it comes to discovering a band like the Go-Betweens, what better time than now?
Reviewed by Megan Giddings
This review is also posted on The Modern Pea Pod.