In praise of: Robert Forster's "Danger in the Past"

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Grant McLennan has (quite rightly) been spotlighted as a near-genius of sorts in the last couple of weeks, with a number of posters praising this or that solo album; but Robert Forster's own catalogue needs a second look, even though his albums more than McLennan's got increasingly crumbly (I suspect he needed the Go-Betweens reunion more than Grant).

I just listened to Danger in the Past for the first time in years, and it's really unlike anything in their catalogue. Produced by Mick Harvey, it's mostly guitar-bass-drums, with subtle organ washes and piano embellishments, and lots of echo on Forster's vocals. Some of his most intelligent, forthright songs too. "I've Been Looking for Somebody" nails the trembling uncertainty of a man who may have found true love but is too battle-scarred to make the plunge. "Danger in the Past" has a growling menace that I wish the Go-Betweens had uncorked more often. Ditto "Is This What You Call Change" -- Forster in asshole mode is most fetching. And "Baby Stones" is a wonderful pop song; I'd love to hear the Go-Betweens' various live versions.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Monday, 22 May 2006 01:22 (fourteen years ago) link

that tune "Heart Out To Tender" sticks in my head for some reason

Paul (scifisoul), Monday, 22 May 2006 01:30 (fourteen years ago) link

My thoughts via the AMG.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 22 May 2006 01:39 (fourteen years ago) link

Ah! Very nice, Ned! Glad you liked "Baby Stones" too.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Monday, 22 May 2006 01:46 (fourteen years ago) link

OTM, alfred--Danger in the Past is an overlooked gem; none of his other lps come close.

nerve pylon (flat_of_angles), Monday, 22 May 2006 02:26 (fourteen years ago) link

this is definitely my favourite non-GoB's LP of either of them, the title track particularly being up there with Robert's best songs.

electric sound of jim (and why not) (electricsound), Monday, 22 May 2006 02:30 (fourteen years ago) link

"Dear Black Dream"!

Rickey Wright (Rrrickey), Monday, 22 May 2006 04:37 (fourteen years ago) link

for some reason i imagine that Robert's next solo album will be similar in spirit to this one

electric sound of jim (and why not) (electricsound), Monday, 22 May 2006 04:52 (fourteen years ago) link

for some reason i imagine that Robert's next solo album will be similar in spirit to this one

Ugh. "Danger in the Past" acquires even more chilling resonance.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Monday, 22 May 2006 12:39 (fourteen years ago) link

I love this record. I remember when it came out, and the DJ on WNUR (Noerthwestern U) said "we cannot recommend this record." But being more of a Go-Betweens fan than a WNUR fan, I bought it anyway.

All the songs mentioned so far, OTM... This record is 100% solid all the way through. And 'Darlinghust Nights' & 'Danger in the Past' together make for a wrist-slitting good time.

dave's good arm (facsimile) (dave225.3), Monday, 22 May 2006 12:52 (fourteen years ago) link

Yeah, this is probably my favorite GBs solo album too. I like all of Robert's quite a bit. Saw him perform "Danger in the Past" with Grant in Boston a few years ago and he did a ten (or so) minute version. Robert sang from a couch, which highlighted nicely some of the song's themes.

TRG (TRG), Monday, 22 May 2006 13:13 (fourteen years ago) link

where/when was that Boston show? where was i?

nerve pylon (flat_of_angles), Monday, 22 May 2006 14:08 (fourteen years ago) link

Summer of '99 at the Paradise. There are some good photos from the gig here, including a number of couch ones.


TRG (TRG), Monday, 22 May 2006 14:46 (fourteen years ago) link

Yes--this is the only solo album I've heard from McLennan or Forster that ranks up there with any of the Go-Betweens records. It's pretty much perfect from start to finish. Apparently Mick Harvey was on board to produce the Go-Betweens unrealized post 16 Lovers Lane record, but Danger In The Past will do nicely in its place. Probably one of Forster's best-sung records. On the other hand, Warm Nights is kind of awful...

Tyler W (tylerw), Monday, 22 May 2006 16:01 (fourteen years ago) link

Yes--this is the only solo album I've heard from McLennan or Forster that ranks up there with any of the Go-Betweens records

Well, I'll admit that it's on par with Horsebreakerk Star :)

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Monday, 22 May 2006 16:04 (fourteen years ago) link

Yeah, I may have to give Horsebreaker Star another shot--whenever I listen to it, it seems like its on the VERGE of being a masterpiece, but somehow misses the mark for me...I've only got the US single CD version--is the double CD better? How many songs are missing?

Tyler W (tylerw), Monday, 22 May 2006 16:07 (fourteen years ago) link

Six songs are missing, methinks. I was hoping someone would have posted those tracks in the last couple of weeks.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Monday, 22 May 2006 16:08 (fourteen years ago) link

Six songs, yes. Also, of course, "Lighting Fires" is not on the double-disc, since it's on Fireboy where it should be.

BUT BACK TO FORSTER etc. I always have a strong fondness for "The River People" due to the Walkabouts cover, as I mutter in my review.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 22 May 2006 16:11 (fourteen years ago) link

I might be the only person who likes Warm Nights. I don't mind. I even like the version of "Rock 'n' Roll Friend" on there.

Haven't heard Walkabouts version of "River People" but am curious. I've heard some Walkabouts here and there and liked them. Where's a good place to begin w/ them?

TRG (TRG), Monday, 22 May 2006 16:23 (fourteen years ago) link

Tyler was right upthread: Forster's never sung with as much presence (helped, of course, by the echo).

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Monday, 22 May 2006 16:26 (fourteen years ago) link

(Cut myself off)

I was going to cite "Justice" as an example. The way the organ licks cushion the warmth of his voice – as pleasing as the home fires the song celebrates. One of the few songs to make something of married bliss, too.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Monday, 22 May 2006 16:30 (fourteen years ago) link

On the other hand, Warm Nights is kind of awful...

I diagree! listened to it Saturday morning, it's got a really great off-hand groove to it - the one thing I don't like is that version of "Rock 'n' Roll Friend"

Thomas Tallis (Tommy), Monday, 22 May 2006 16:52 (fourteen years ago) link

I've heard some Walkabouts here and there and liked them. Where's a good place to begin w/ them?

Hmmm, where to begin indeed. They have a massive amount of albums:

http://thewalkabouts.com/disco.htm

I'd almost say start with the first of their covers albums, Satisfied Mind -- it's where I started and was almost immediately won over. It has "The River People" on it, not to mention a brilliant Carla-sung take on Nick Cave's "Loom of the Land" and an absolutely spectacular version of Charlie Rich's "Feel Like Going Home," with Mark Lanegan guesting.

But that said, Watermarks is as close to a career overview record they have, and contains some of their strongest songs. Just reading the tracklist is almost breathtaking.

Ned Raggett (Ned), Monday, 22 May 2006 16:59 (fourteen years ago) link

I thought Danger In The Past had a naff cover shot (he looks like a "tasteful" yuppie) until I saw Calling From A Country Phone...

agree that DITP is the best of the Robert/Grant solo releases...all of the other ones (both Robert and Grant's) start off strong, with a couple of great singles, then sorta peter out...

this has probably been written about in the last 2 weeks, but anybody know why Grant called himself "GW" on the Watershed album?

hank (hank s), Monday, 22 May 2006 18:12 (fourteen years ago) link

I love "Warm Nights" and "I Can Do" - I think Robert's flat, dull vocals are part of the draw here...

I keep "I Can Do" (along with a few other choice tracks - "2541" (Hart version)) on a 30 minute tape in my car that I break out for music emergencies. (i.e. if can't find anything else to listen to.)

dave's good arm (facsimile) (dave225.3), Monday, 22 May 2006 18:56 (fourteen years ago) link

It's a great album, one of my favourites.
However, there is one really clunky note; that "as I breath your deadly wind" line, from the one making an analogy between a poisonous relationship and environmental pollution, 'Justice' I think. Hard to keep a straight face.

Bidfurd (Bidfurd), Monday, 22 May 2006 20:10 (fourteen years ago) link

Being able to sing 'Heart out to tender, I came along with my Beard' makes me very happy though. oh the roffles.

Bidfurd (Bidfurd), Monday, 22 May 2006 20:13 (fourteen years ago) link

Grant McLennan (9-94):

"Baby Stones," yeah I really like the arrangement we did for that, it was
good, and yeah it's nice, because "Haven't I Been a Fool" and "Baby
Stones" would really, kind of, fit in to the Go-Betweens kind of thing,
you know, it was a pleasure having Rober t sing on it, and vice versa I
guess.

http://www.twee.net/Indiepop/message.aspx?id=17837


I agree Baby Stones would have been a top, top shelf Go-Between's song. It makes the album for me. The piano intro really sets it up for something big and Forster's pleading is something else. I like the way he sings 'arooooouuuuuuuund here'. And the way he lowers his voice to deliver the no man is as good as me bit. Sometimes it seems like there's too many words in a line but he can just roll 'em out. If you put this song on a mix tape for somebody you like I wonder if they would find it romantic or think he's pathetic or even a stalker?

Carlos Keith (Buck_Wilde), Monday, 22 May 2006 20:17 (fourteen years ago) link

However, there is one really clunky note; that "as I breathe your deadly wind" line
But redeemed by "You stuck a knife in our side - is this what you call change?" Come on!

dave's good arm (facsimile) (dave225.3), Monday, 22 May 2006 20:34 (fourteen years ago) link

I think "Warm Nights" is his best record - I especially like "Loneliness," which would be my nomination for the best solo Go-Betweens tune. "Jug Of Wine" is great too, and the whole record's loony. But I love that Edwyn Collins / Vic Godard sound that gave spawn to the record.

Dee Xtrovert (dee dee), Monday, 22 May 2006 20:43 (fourteen years ago) link

I agree Baby Stones would have been a top, top shelf Go-Between's song. It makes the album for me. The piano intro really sets it up for something big and Forster's pleading is something else. I like the way he sings 'arooooouuuuuuuund here'. And the way he lowers his voice to deliver the no man is as good as me bit. Sometimes it seems like there's too many words in a line but he can just roll 'em out.

He really does belt out those words like a pro, no? It helps that his guitar line is simple enough so that anyone who wants to cover this can look like a star if he does both at once.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn (Alfred Soto), Monday, 22 May 2006 20:50 (fourteen years ago) link

one year passes...

Listening to the Go-Be's solo comp now...man, "Danger in the Past" is a great song.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 19:03 (thirteen years ago) link

hm, yeah, is this solo comp worth getting? how is it set up? Are the Grant/Robert songs mixed together to create a virtual Go-Betweens record or are they separate?

tylerw, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 19:18 (thirteen years ago) link

The Grant stuff is in chronological order and offers no surprises; Robert's is mixed up. In this context I'm underwhelmed, funnily enough.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Tuesday, 19 June 2007 19:23 (thirteen years ago) link

one year passes...

"I've Been Looking For Somebody" -- wow.

Alfred, Lord Sotosyn, Wednesday, 7 January 2009 02:19 (eleven years ago) link

one year passes...

The perfect Sunday evening record.

Inculcate a spirit of serfdom in children (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Monday, 1 March 2010 03:31 (ten years ago) link

one year passes...

http://medicine-opera.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/James-Joyce.jpg

James Joyce!

nerve_pylon, Sunday, 10 April 2011 03:29 (nine years ago) link

seven years pass...

Mick Harvey's Bad Seeds vibe is all over this record. I'd love to hear Nick Cave sing the title track or "I've Been Looking For Somebody".

Gerald McBoing-Boing, Friday, 5 October 2018 02:45 (one year ago) link

this record is perfect

You like queer? I like queer. Still like queer. (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Friday, 5 October 2018 02:46 (one year ago) link

yes. it's sort of the best Nick Cave record he never wrote

nostormo, Friday, 5 October 2018 09:23 (one year ago) link

It's a great album, <3 Robert F.

Zach Same (Tom D.), Friday, 5 October 2018 11:20 (one year ago) link

One of my favourites ever since I first heard it. It's weird though cause I never considered Nick Cave as a reference point - I heard Jeffrey Lee Pierce, particularly on 'Leave Here Satisfied'.

whitehallunity, Friday, 5 October 2018 12:16 (one year ago) link

one year passes...

Way overdue for both those albums.

Ned Raggett, Wednesday, 8 January 2020 17:20 (eight months ago) link

don't think i've ever come across either of these on vinyl before — might have to shell out for 'em.

tylerw, Wednesday, 8 January 2020 17:30 (eight months ago) link

Ouch, can't afford £46 for both special editions right now :(

PaulTMA, Wednesday, 8 January 2020 20:26 (eight months ago) link

two months pass...

The remastered version of Danger in the Past has just arrived and sounds good (on CD, at least).

Portsmouth Bubblejet, Sunday, 5 April 2020 14:10 (five months ago) link


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