The Go-Betweens: Right Here is the long-awaited feature-length documentary on Australia’s greatest pop band, The Go-Betweens. They never had a hit single, even in their native Australia. On top of that, there was enough personal drama within the band during their ’80s incarnation to rival ABBA and Fleetwood Mac. However, they had a rabid cult following, and it has only increased in the years since they first split and after songwriter Grant McLennan’s untimely passing in 2006.
The film’s director, Kriv Stenders, is one of the most prolific Australian directors around. He moves effortlessly from documentary to features and episodic television, and here he decides to use a basic linear narrative, from The Go-Betweens’ beginnings to McLennan’s death. It’s a smart move, and makes the documentary incredibly accessible for non-fans (there was also a condensed version created for Australian television.) You see through a mix of archival footage, photographs, audio recordings, reconstruction sequences of the two songwriters Robert Forster and Grant McLennan as young men, and newly filmed interviews with the surviving band members, friends and managers the story of this truly unique pop band—a group that should’ve “made it” but were always destined to only achieve cult success.
Robert Forster, the surviving songwriter of the band, naturally gets the most screen time, but the inclusion of the female band members Lindy Morrison and Amanda Brown gives the viewer a well-rounded picture of both Robert and Grant as people and their dynamic as songwriters. Lindy’s contribution should never be underestimated: her bizarre time signatures as a drummer really made them incredibly unique, and that was something that was lost when The Go-Betweens reformed the without her in the early ’00s. There is a great line early on about the decision to have a female drummer by Clint Walter (a friend of the band): “they were such a pair of poofters… of course they had a woman drummer!”.
Enough time has passed that everybody is extremely candid, even though Forster is at times doing his aloof act. One of the biggest insights is finding out that Forster was the down-to-earth one, and it was McLennan was the one who wanted to be the big pop star—which is the total opposite of their public personas. There is a great part where Lindy and Morrison are interviewed together about the end of the band and how they were just done with it after the band split. Robert and Lindy had already broken up as a couple well before the band was over, but Grant and Amanda’s relationship finished almost instantly when the band was.
The Go-Betweens: Right Here is the best music documentary of the last few years. It’s the story of two young men who bonded over The Monkees and The Modern Lovers and decided to try to make it. They were signed to almost every hip indie label in the ’80s, but their deal couldn’t last for more than an album, if that. It’s heartbreaking, rip-roaringly hilarious, and it’s full of great music.
The DVD includes almost 50 minutes of additional scenes, includes a hilarious part about how Robert Forster wearing a dress onstage destroyed their chance of success in the US (as if it that was ever going to happen).