Nothing ever really beats a walk in the rain. When it’s on the warmer side of an Australian spring, say mid-November, it is in every sense of the word, divine. There is something therapeutic about walking around without an umbrella and allowing the warm rain soak into your hair and clothes, until you end up shivering. Even then it’s all been worth it, ‘just like spring rain.’
Usually you would close off with a paragraph like that, but then, that was the thought that ran through my mind last night. Walking on a barmy, stormy night, in the rain. It’s kind of a cleansing, hopeful feeling. Which is why ‘Spring Rain’, one the Go-Betweens classic “anthems” is on my permanent playlist. It just gives you that feeling.
I didn’t really discover the magic of the Go-Betweens until my early twenties. I knew of them; their 1988 hit ‘Streets of Your Town’ had been etched into my mind, thanks to an old regional television station advert. It wasn’t until one late Saturday night whilst watching Rage into the early hours of the morning, with ears ringing after being at a gig, that I heard them with ‘Spring Rain.’ I felt a bit guilty – like I should have known about this song, about this band better than I did.
After a quick flick through the band’s back catalogue, their most famous song ‘Cattle and Cane’ was immediately familiar. I wondered how had not remembered it, and then realised it was released in 1983; I was only of preschool age at four.
‘Spring Rain’ became an immediate favourite that Saturday night; the song has this weird fusion of jangle pop, swing and folk rock. Linda Morrison’s drumming had an alluring almost anti-rock style, this kind of backbeat swing style that matched the storytelling lyrics of Robert Forster and the late Grand McLennan.
Really the song is about irony; the irony of being dressed up at your best, only to find yourself alone, or being with people you don’t really want to be with because, well they’re not the sort of people you need in your life, but they’re there anyway. And how about that desire for change that never seems to come, and when it does, it’s sudden … like spring rain.
Driving my first car
My elbows in the breeze
With all these people that I Never, never need
These people are excited by their cars
I want surprises just like Spring Rain
At the time of the song’s release, I would have only been seven years old, so I never had the chance to appreciate the genius of the song in its time; I don’t think Australia appreciated the song in its time either. It only seems in retrospect that the band seems to get the appreciation they deserve. They have certainly inspired many a Gen-Y and hipster Millennial band, as have fellow Australian indie acts, the Triffids, the Church, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, who were all part of Australia’s offerings in the first wave of pre-nineties indie / alternative bands. Coming out of the UK and US at around the same time were the Smiths or R.E.M; the Go Betweens were every bit as good as those bands.
After I watched the video, the next day I went and bought the album it comes off, Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express, and it struck me at how far ahead of its time it was; the slightly grungy, chorus pedal filled jangle of ‘The Wrong Road’, the energetic punk of ‘In the Core of a Flame, and the two-step folk pop of ‘The Ghost and the Black’, which was a bit of trademark sound, just made the band spectacularly quirky.
Yet, I couldn’t stop playing ‘Spring Rain’. It just seemed to amplify a humorous outlook on the awkwardness in my own life. I’ve certainly experienced enough awkwardness, some at my own doing, others because, well because that’s just how life goes.
And then there’s been that desperate longing for change, which seems elusive; but it when it does come, it seems like it’s falling down like sheets / coming down like love …
Awkwardness can produce that.