With their intelligent lyrics and sophisticated pop jangle, the Go-Betweens have always made it seem cool to be grown up. Without resorting to navel-baring exhibitionism or angry punk theatrics, the Australian band simultaneously exudes sex appeal and a subtle sadness. The combination of polished craftsmanship and visual interest -- artwork from 1988's 16 Lovers Lane featured vocalists/guitarists Grant McLennan and Robert Forster in meditative repose and former drummer Lindy Morrison draped in black satin like an ersatz Greek goddess -- made the group irresistible.
On bright yellow bright orange, McLennan and Forster are joined by versatile musicians Adele Pickvance and Glenn Thompson, as well as a full string section. The two longtime collaborators still handle all songwriting duties, however, and it's clear that the album's familiar elements -- romantic angst, jewel-toned guitars, concise songs about people yearning to grow -- reflect their personal vision.
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Revisiting the shimmering, moody vein mined on 2000's unexpected comeback album The Friends of Rachel Worth (which featured Sleater-Kinney as backup band), bright yellow bright orange highlights what the Go-Betweens do best: craft thoughtful, accessible guitar pop. With its level, conversational vocals, the buoyant "Caroline and I" conjures visions of Lou Reed and could be a cousin to his "Caroline Says." The lovely "Mrs. Morgan" also brings to mind the croaking Raven auteur; its stately opening guitar strongly resembles that of Reed's "Sweet Jane." "Poison in the Walls" uses a deceptively simple melody to hide its venom and disappointment, while in "Too Much of One Thing," a propulsive, Dylanesque acoustic guitar delivers us to some typically opaque Go-Betweens lyrics: "Breathe low my scented lover/Bottles and vials, potions and pills/I could carve you from memory/Then carry you through these hills." Comforting and instantly familiar yet elusive enough to keep you wondering, bright yellow bright orange is painted from a winsome palette.