The Go-Betweens

Bright Yellow Bright Orange

Before calling it quits in 1988, Australia's Go-Betweens were one of the 1980s' best melancholic alternapop groups, up there with fellow glum travelers Aztec Camera, Everything But the Girl, and American Music Club. Alas, the band was too subtle -- and, looking back, not silly enough -- for both mainstream and college rock radio play. Now, following the 2000 reunion album The Friends of Rachel Worth, the Go-Betweens' main men Robert Forster and Grant McLennan prove their comeback was no fluke: Bright Yellow Bright Orangeshows they're older, wiser, and in some ways better than the first time 'round.

Both singer/songwriters still have that dryly witty, forlorn-guy thing going, along with their mutual knack for irresistibly demure melodies and direct, simple, and glistening guitar solos. While many of the Go-B's older albums were maddeningly inconsistent (for every sublime "Draining the Pool for You," there was a truly forgettable "Someone Else's Wife"), Bright Yellow's 10 tracks range from very good to truly outstanding. The disc kicks off with a terrific one-two punch: "Caroline and I," driven with a magnetic hook that's a variation on Richie Valens' "La Bamba," followed by the sparkling ode to the patches of quicksand in love and politics "Poison in the Walls," with its deliriously despondent chorus: "Don't go outside like a child in the streets/ Hanging on by claws/ Another useless empty cause." Elsewhere, the protagonist in the country-tinged "Too Much of One Thing" declares, "I have known a hundred women/ And part of me loves to fail," sung with enough self-mockery and resignation to avoid reeking of sticky self-pity. But it usually takes more than great songs to make a great album, and new bandmates Adele Pickvance (bass) and Glenn Thompson (drums) complete the act's classic equation of moody texture, restrained effervescence, and winsome background vocals, placing this slice of Orangeon a par with classic Go-B releases Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express and Spring Hill Fare. The group's still subtle and still not silly, but times have changed enough so that it has more of a chance to be heard this time out.

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