Grant McLennan, co-leader of the Go-Betweens, died Saturday, May 6, in Brisbane at the age of 48. McLennan passed away in his sleep.
McLennan, along with Robert Forster, formed the Go-Betweens in 1977 around a shared love of 1960s pop, folk-rock, Television, and the Velvet Underground. The group released six albums of jangly, intelligent, incisive music and a handful of classic singles on Postcard, Rough Trade, Beggars Banquet, and Sire before disbanding in 1989 after years of deserved critical success but public indifference. In the 90s, McLennan released four solo albums and paired with the Church’s Steve Kilbey as Jack Frost. Following a performance at the behest of French rock magazine Les Inrockuptibles, McLennan and Forster re-teamed as the Go-Betweens at the start of this decade and recorded three studio albums, including 2005’s vastly underrated Oceans Apart.
Throughout the 80s, the Go-Betweens seemed poised to gain the success enjoyed by likeminded groups such as the Smiths and R.E.M., but despite relocating to London and releasing a string of extraordinary singles, the charts remained just out of their grasp.
McLennan was often considered to be the more pop-oriented half of the Go-Betweens’ songwriting team, but his work is also often tinged with sadness and melancholy, most notably “Cattle and Cane”, a haunting rumination on aging and memory, and “Dusty in Here”, written for his late father.
McLennan also excelled at marrying breezy melodies to world-weary, evocative words, crafting cerebral tracks that exuded a delicate warmth and depth of humanity rare in three-minute pop songs. The best examples of which are “Bye Bye Pride”, “Bachelor Kisses”, “Right Here”, and “Streets of Your Town”. Among other compositions for which McLennan will be most fondly remembered are the Go-Betweens’ “That Way”, “The Wrong Road”, “Dive for Your Memory”, “Love Is a Sign”, and “Finding You”, and solo tracks “Put You Down” and “Simone & Perry”.
MusicNSW would like to offer our condolences to Grant’s family and friends.