The Go-Betweens: Right Here gets between the grooves of music and love

Robert Forster.
Robert Forster.

FOR a band with a name that suggests equivocation, there is not much ‘between’ about The Go-Betweens: you’d tend to love them, hate them, or ask Go-Betweens who?

Nevertheless there was plenty going on between the members of the band. Founders Robert Forster and Grant McLennan met at university in Queensland in the late 1970s and had an intense bond. Forster formed a relationship with drummer Lindy Morrison, while McLennan later formed a relationship with new member Amanda Brown. Both were eventually dropped from the band, with the singular Morrison memorably declaring in Kriv Stenders’feature-length documentary that they were being treated like ex-wives.

It’s a scene that epitomises the workmanship of Stenders (Boxing Day, Red Dog). Morrison is sitting with Brown, who remains silent during the outpouring, and whose body language is unclear both in her feelings about the drummer and the subject matter. It’s awkward, personal, intense and quite telling.

After all, McLennan, once Brown’s great love, is dead. He only made it to 48.

If there’s one notion put to rest here, it’s that you can just love a band for their music. An investment in a group with any sense of artistry is undoubtedly an investment in the world they inhabit.

You get the feeling Stenders knows this. His characters are imbued with an archetypal quality that puts them all on the stage to drive this performance. No one is so-so about this milieu. Even bassist John Willsteed, dismissive of the group he was invited to join, almost breaks down on camera.

Throughout, Forster evokes a grandeur that dignifies proceedings. He has a way with a metaphor, conveys certitude while exposing vulnerability, laments his great friend at every turn.

Like the band, he is jangly but jagged, capable of beautiful words that sometimes sound off-key.

I could never fully understand what I loved about this band but thanks to Stenders and his way with this story and his cast, I have a little more understanding now.

There was always something bruising and uncomfortable below the surface of the sound and I was always compelled to listen. I still listen.

The Go-Betweens: Right Here (M)

Directed by: Kriv Stenders

Four and a half stars

Review by: Martin Turner

In cinemas: September 28 to October 4 at Luna Leederville