Brisbane’s indie rock legends The Go-Betweens were formed by Robert Forster and Grant McLennan in 1977. Lindy Morrison became the drummer in 1980 and for a long time, this was the guts of the band. They were born and grew in the same era as other indies like Laughing Clowns and The Birthday Party. If you were a Generation-X, alternative-music type who kept up with the scene and read RAM magazine, you were acutely aware of the influence and sound of “The Go-Bees”.
If you were anyone else listening to Oz Top 40 in the 1980s and enjoying your I Should Be So Lucky by Kylie or Better Be Home Soon by Crowded House, you might have caught The Go-Betweens most popular song Streets of Your Town on your FM radio. Or maybe you didn’t. This was as near the mainstream as they got. Their lack of monetary success was one of the elements that drove the first break up in 1989. But the story of The Go-Betweens, as this documentary makes clear, wasn’t just about not being able to top Kyles or The Crowdies in the music charts. Robert Forster and Lindy Morrison were in a relationship for some of those years. Grant McLennan and multi-instrumentalist band-member Amanda Brown were in a relationship for some other years. This was part of the stress and conflict. There were band politics and fallings out. Some members hit the drugs and the booze. In a sense, this first stage of The Go-Betweens, had all the classic ups and downs one expects of an influential band, except for fame and fortune. They were a cult hit, loved by fans who would never have to say, “I was into them before they were famous.”
The second, shorter stage of The Go-Betweens ran between 2000-2006; stripped back once more to Forster and McLennan, this period was musically productive and ended tragically. There are numerous relevant heads brought forth to talk about the phases of the band’s career. Musician Paul Kelly, rock writer Clinton Walker, The Bad Seeds’ Mick Harvey, The Church’s Steve Kilbey, The Saints’ Ed Kuepper and fleetingly, weirdly, Lloyd Cole of Lloyd Cole and The Commotions fame. Best of all, is the appearance of every living former Go-Between, no matter how few months or many years they were a part of it all.
Kriv Stenders, the writer and director, is a well-credentialed filmmaker who has not only directed local TV drama such as Doctor, Doctor but also completed eight Australian features, which is a stunning number for a director in this country. The best known of these is RED DOG (2011) and RED DOG: TRUE BLUE (2016). Unlike some critics, I believe Stenders has done an excellent job shaping the material of this film. He has taken a linear approach to the time-line, which I’m always a fan of, but has also used some wonderfully poetic editing and cinematography in showing the anecdotes and memories of the band members. Their different emotional states; the regret, sadness or perhaps lingering anger is given the appropriate moment, and therefore place, in the story.
THE GO-BETWEENS: RIGHT HERE is not merely about the love and the fun. It attempts to reflect the complicated journey of a vitally interesting, slowly-changing group of people over three decades. They made great music and there were personal costs. That’s what happens, just about always, when creative types do their damnedest to grab a stage and make the audience listen. Running time: 95 minutes. (8/10)