The Go-Betweens – Metal and Shells
PVC Records, 1985
Acquired: Half Price Books, Used, 2013
I’ve been on the hunt for Go-Betweens records since I fell in love with the band a few years back. I had literally never seen one til I was cleaning up the LP room at HPB St. Paul and stumbled across this best of, already priced and ready for me to take home. I just had to glance at the track list on the back to know this was exactly the Go-Betweens record I needed in my collection. Though this comp precedes my favorite Go-Betweens record—1988’s 16 Lovers Lane—it kicks off with two of my absolute favorite tracks: “Part Company” and “Bachelor Kisses.” I love “Part Company” so much I referenced it in the best song I ever wrote. “I know you heard that song by the Go-Betweens/The one that referenced ‘her handwriting’/I think you should have agreed to part company.” While I’m wholly embarrassed by most of the songs I wrote with the Kite Tails, I’m still really proud of that one. Probably because it was the only song that broke from the standard break-up fare and admitted my own faults (which of course is necessary for any good break-up song with any depth). It was a Trembling Blue Stars song that led me to “Part Company” that led me to Spring Hill Fair which is now a record I probably don’t need to own since this compilation features 7 of the 10 songs featured on that album (I’ll still buy it the first chance I get though, because of course I will). Metal and Shells also features their best known track “Cattle and Cane” which is pretty much one of thee landmarks for that magnificent period of Australian indie rock in the 80s and 90s. My love for Australian rock music from that period has been well documented on this blog, and as long as I keep digging up great records by the Go-Betweens and the Church and the like it’s honestly never going to stop. There’s something quirky about how they do it, I can’t ever put a finger on it but there’s something distinctly Australian and distinctly great about the Aussie rockers. The Go-Betweens not only carved out their own unique sound, but their lyrics were some of the best you’re going to find on any continent in the 80s. Lines like “That’s her handwriting/ That’s the way she writes/ From the first letter I got to this, her Bill of Rights” and “Don’t believe what you’ve heard/ Faithful’s not a bad word” have a poetry to them that inhabits the songs of Robert Forster and Grant McLennan. Though the content is great, it’s the way the words flow and feel so at home in these songs that makes them great. Each song is a cohesive little unit that I could listen to a thousand times and, now that I have this record, probably will listen to a thousand times.