Monday, May 08, 2006

Grant McLennan, 1958-2006.

I didn't know someone
could be so lonesome
didn't know a heart could be
tied up and held for ransom...

Oh, dear God, this is terribly sad news.

For those who didn't know of Grant McLennan, he was one of the two songwriter/singers who were the core of the 1980s Australian band the Go-Betweens--if you had to draw a Beatles parallel, he was the McCartney of the pair. McLennan's songs, however, while often featuring rousing choruses and hummable melodies, had an acerbity to them, a sense of loss, of time's transience.

Take "Cattle and Cane", off the Go-Betweens' 1983 Before Hollywood--a song about a young man coming home by train, though there's no real happiness in his return, and it's unclear why he is coming home--possibly a funeral of a parent. (McLennan later said the song was inspired by his father's death.) Or "Bye Bye Pride", from 1987's Tallulah, in which the world is crystallized for one brilliant moment--"A white moon appears/like a hole in the sky/the mangroves go quiet"--with the sense that it all will fade immediately upon the song's end, that life itself is no more than a holiday somewhere.

When the band split up at the end of the '80s, McLennan went on to record on his own some marvelous records during the following decade. I think I've mentioned his masterpiece, 1994's Horsebreaker Star, before--it's a 2-disc set, some 20 or so tracks, almost all of which are incredibly well-written pop songs, performed with a drive and assurance that belies the facts of its creation (basically, McLennan flew into Athens, Ga., and, over a few days, quickly recorded the tracks with a bunch of pros he had never met before). It was one of the best things to come out of that decade, and it's of course out of print.

So here's to Grant McLennan. God bless.

The Go Betweens, Cattle and Cane.
The Go Betweens, When People are Dead.
(sung by his partner in the Go-Betweens, Robert Forster, but sadly apt).
The Go Betweens, Bye Bye Pride.
Grant McLennan, Ice in Heaven.
Grant McLennan, Open My Eyes.
Grant McLennan, From My Lips.

So take your shoes and go outside
stride over stride
walk to that tide
'cos the door is open wide...

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