Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds,
The Go-Betweens

New Musical Express, 26th March 1988

Review by Martin Aston

Melbourne Showgrounds

RAGE: A colloquialism used by Australians to denote general excitement, adrenalin-fuelled weekending. 'Rage Without Alcohol' - a catchphrase appropriated for Melbourne's 1988 Music Show, a celebrative event that tried to prove that you can defy alcoholic gravity and still have a good time .

But who needs alcohol when you've got action centres, graffiti walls, creche facilities, community radio and a Madame Tussaud's-style gala night of 25 Australian 'all-time greats' firing its collective fat-backbeat raunch 'n' revelry with the use of one sessioneering backing band ?

Nick Cave, Melbourne's very own Cap'n Bligh, was still confined to the 'independent' rock pavilion; if not visibly sponsored by alcohol, then at least scented by a Smoking Improves Your Deprivation campaign.

Cave hasn't had any real change of heart. The Bad Seeds still shift around slightly; for now, the cherubic suited frame of The Gun Club's Kid Congo has taken up the opposite side of the stage to Blixa Bargeld, where his bluey-black swamp guitar shadings anchor Bargeld's more haphazard shelling, leaving Mick Harvey free to pump in sombre keyboard refrains. But Cave is still hovering in the middle of Iggy Pop bodyflops, three rings down on Dante's inferno rating, eyes to heaven, all his rumbling bass notes striking out steps to hell...

If the new 'Sugar, Sugar, Sugar' unveils typically downspiralling guitar squall and vocal melees, peaking on another clenched "you better pray" chant, then Bad Seedland is still that vivid, churning, Brechtian cabaret world of dark watercolours, bleeding darker with the blood of Cave's voice.

Even so, after an hour, you do feel shut out by Cave's trappings; for how much longer can he creatively treat his terminal appetites, even if it his funeral and only your entrance fee ?

A similar feeling could be tagged on to the Go-Betweens right here, as this lacklustre performance felt more ominous than the sole excuse (Robert Vickers departing replaced by one John Willstead, bespectacled and shaggy-blond-rinsed) and lack of preparation.

Sometimes the lack of acknowlegement between front persons Robert Forster and Grant McLennan can be a chilling one, subtracting from the intuitive warmth, gesture and symmetry that a Go-Betweens song usually accommodates. Tonight, even 'Bye Bye Pride' and 'The Clarke Sisters' sounded tired, the songs' glide and quiver all drained out, like the melodies had been up all night. Maybe Forster had too because he sat down for the first half of the former. The likes of 'Head Full Of Steam' and 'Part Company' are already tightly-wrapped, so they could do without such chafing awkwardness.

The bumpy country track of 'Don't Call Me Gone' didn't sound like the right step forward either. Only the wistful mood of 'Apology Accepted', beautifully tagged on to an opening dedication to the departing Vickers, resolved the feeling of gaps. Grant and Robert are co-writing the new record though, so don't call them gone, baby...


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