The tagline is Three Decades, Two Friends, One Band. And despite a number of band members over the years, the reality is that the Go-Betweens were the project of Robert Forster and Grant McLennan.
Written and directed by Kriv Stenders, the film takes a pretty linear approach, beginning with the two men meeting at college in Brisbane in 1975, and going up to the tragically young death of McLennan in 2006. It is actually pretty hard to find many faults with this documentary. Although two hours long, the film tells its story well-enough that it doesn’t feel that it is being fleshed out, rather that everything we need to know is within.
And it is actually pretty moving. Sure, fans of the band (and I’m proud to include myself in that description) know that the band could no longer continue with the death of McLennan, and as a result his death hangs heavily over the film. While the two men were great friends and responsible for some of the loveliest music ever made, there’s no doubt that they frustrated many of those they worked alongside. Long-term drummer Lindy Morrison and violinist/oboist Amanda Brown speak warmly of the band, and they are those most significant contributors here, after Forster but at times clearly found Grant and Robert hard to deal with. Like an indie version of Fleetwood Mac, there were intra-band relationships, and inevitably the strain of being critically acclaimed (but not selling many records), along with drink and drugs, would take their toll.
Perhaps for me the biggest fault is that when Grant and Robert made a comeback as the Go-Betweens in 2000, the utterly essential role of two-thirds of Sleater-Kinney is completely left out. But there are also baffling concerns as to why the band couldn’t make a commercial crossover, was it the succession of record companies, or that they were so focused on their art they couldn’t write to order?