MELISSA BLOCK, host:
If you are Australian, chances are you know the rock band called the Go-Betweens. The band has been influential around the world, although it's not as well-known in the US. In 2006, one of the group's founders died suddenly of a heart attack, and the Go-Betweens came to an end. Now one remaining member, Robert Forster, has put out a solo album. Our music critic Robert Christgau likes it.
(Soundbite of music)
ROBERT CHRISTGAU: The impolite truth is that Robert Forster was the Go-Betweens' lesser half. Grant McLennan, Forster's friend and partner for his entire adult life, took of music at Forster's urging. But it was the late McLennan who again and again gave this song band when every song needs most - a good tune.
(Soundbite of song "Right Here")
THE GO-BETWEENS: (Singing) Your hands are tired. Your eyes are blue. I'm keeping you right here, right here, right here, right here, right here, whatever I have is yours and it's right here.
CHRISTGAU: That was perhaps the Go-Betweens catchiest song, "Right Here," from their "Tallulah." The catchiest song on Forster's first solo album in 12 years, "The Evangelist," is "It Ain't Easy," and the melody on that one is McLennan's too, one of half a dozen he and Forster were working out when McLennan died.
(Soundbite of song "It Ain't Easy")
Mr. ROBERT FORSTER (Musician): (Singing) And a river ran, and a train ran, and a dream ran through everything that he did. There was melody, there was harmony, there was sweet Sherrie, but it was melody he loved most of all.
CHRISTGAU: Forster borrows two other McLennan tunes on this contemplative, rather mournful record. But the opener is solely his own, "If It Rains," about a literal drought and, more generally, environmental peril.
(Soundbite of song "If It Rains")
Mr. FORSTER: (Singing) If it rains, we'll worship again. We've seen what came without the rain. We'll be thankful that it came. If it rains...
CHRISTGAU: That stark, almost religious reverie is followed immediately by "Demon Days," a less pointed song of disquiet further softened by another Grant McLennan melody.
(Soundbite of song "Demon Days")
Mr. FORSTER: (Singing) In these demon days, we're pulling our pay. The lights on the hill are freezing us still. The fingers of fate stretch out and take us to a night, something's not right. Something's gone wrong.
CHRISTGAU: I like both these songs. I like every song on "The Evangelist," which is easily Robert Forster's strongest solo CD. But the odd thing is that although McLennan's "Demon Days" is catchier, in the end the all-Forster all-the-time "If It Rains" is more striking and sticks harder. That's how it was on all three albums The Go-Betweens released in this decade, after an amicable 10-year layoff. McLennan's facility always drew you in but Forster's sensible prosaic voice made a deeper and sharper impression. Artistically as well as personally, Forster will miss his dearest friend for the rest of his life.
Songs have never come easy to him. So he may well draw on McLennan's tune stock again. But if he comes up with material as strong as "The Evangelist"'s title cut, about bringing his wife to Australia from her native Germany, he'll be fine.
(Soundbite of song "The Evangelist")
Mr. FORSTER: (Singing) I took her out of her home, a cabin near the woods, and took her to this desert with threatening neighborhoods. Well, I believe...
BLOCK: The new album by Robert Forster is called "The Evangelist." Our reviewer, Robert Christgau, writes The Consumer Guide column of music for MSN Networks.
(Soundbite of song "The Evangelist")
Mr. FORSTER: (Singing) ...there was gold in that dust.