It seems a bit unfair that The Go-Betweens’ Tallulah is sandwiched between the rich Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express and the band’s triumphant swan song, 16 Lovers Lane. It’s not that it’s a bad album, because it’s quite good. But between two albums that are as close to perfect as the band has ever come, it has potential to be ignored. But then again, with two videos and ten extra songs included with Jetset’s reissue of the Australian group’s 1987 album, it might get just that much more attention.
Tallulah is sort of a transitional album for The Go-Betweens. While Liberty Belle had traces of the edginess heard on the band’s earlier albums, Tallulah was more straightforward and didn’t stray far from four-chord jangle pop. “Right Here” and “You Tell Me,” the one-two opening package, is perfect evidence of this. Like later Psychedelic Furs or XTC, it’s the sound of a band getting comfortable, if perhaps a bit unadventurous.
In listening to Tallulah, the maturity seems like more of a strength than a handicap, as there is hardly a bad song in the bunch. The violin-heavy “Someone Else’s Wife” and the gypsy-rock of “The House Jack Kerouac Built” show the band settling into a style that would appeal to college rock listeners and NPR regulars alike. The pace seemed to have slowed down a bit and thus, the album may not have had the instant appeal as some of their prior records.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why Jetset took on the task of reissuing the album. It’s pretty darned good and deserved the deluxe packaging that many other albums (many of them lesser albums) had been treated with of late. What’s interesting about Tallulah is that it was the album that was meant to break the Go-Betweens in America and when heard in retrospect, seems an idiosyncratic choice to market in terms of a hit record. “Bye Bye Pride” and “Right Here,” the album’s two singles, are just as catchy as the rest of the band’s best known material, but the remainder of the album seems a bit dark in contrast, and not as thoroughly memorable as follow-up album 16 Lovers Lane. But given repeated listens, Tallulah is no less worthy an addition to a collection of indie rock essentials.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.