Album Reviews

Robert Forster – Songs to Play – Album Review

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Robert Forster – Songs to Play – Album Review by Killian Laher

Robert Forster, formerly of The Go-Betweens, returns with his first album in seven years since the rather sombre The Evangelist. Here he’s in more playful form from the start on the Dylan-esque Learn To Burn. Forster has a kind of louche, yet clipped way of singing, and it’s charmingly awkward on Let Me Imagine You, where he implores “please don’t twitter”. It’s a bright, easy strum and, in common with many of the tracks here, not over-cluttered with instruments, allowing the relatively simple melodies to shine.

Forster hasn’t neglected his moodier side either. Songwriters On The Run, has a kind lonesome twangy guitar running throughout, on a standout duet with his wife Karin Baumler. And I Knew is reminiscent of his more downbeat material on late-period Go-Betweens albums, while A Poet Walks sees Forster in confident, auteur mode, on a dramatic Love (the band)-like track, complete with mariachi horns and violin.

It would be easy to imagine a sad sack like Morrissey turning a song like I’m So Happy For You into a trademark melancholy croon, but in Forster’s hands it comes more straightforward, almost… content? He almost loses the plot on the Jim Morrison does bossa-nova of Love Is Where It Is, but it’s a minor misstep. A couple of heartfelt songs crop up late in the album, broken up by the jokey, pseudo-egotistical I Love Myself. Turn On The Rain could be interpreted as a sort of tribute to his former band mate, the late Grant McLennan, a sort of sentimental, ‘staring up at the sky’ type song. Final track Disaster In Motion is arguably the centrepiece of this album, despite coming at the end. It’s melody echoes the Go-Between classic Bachelor Kisses (perhaps deliberately?) as it drifts moodily along, fading out on a refrain of “what we had” sung with no small measure of regret over and over.

A welcome return then, for one of Australia’s foremost songwriters. His awkward singing style always prevented the Go-Betweens from crossing over into the mainstream but they were always synonymous with quality for the more discerning listener. And Robert Forster does a fine job of continuing in a similar vein.

1. Learn To Burn
2. Let Me Imagine You
3. Songwriters On The Run
4. And I Knew
5. A Poet Walks
6. I’m So Happy For You
7. Love Is Where It Is
8. Turn On The Rain
9. I Love Myself (And I Always Have)
10. Disaster In Motion

 

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Categories: Album Reviews, Header, Music

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