Maybe every great band should be forced to spend a decade apart upon completion of its best album. Compulsory semi-retirement wouldn't guarantee a masterpiece for reunited acts, but the Go-Betweens are proof that an Indian summer is no less warm and thrilling for not having been forecast. Three albums into a revival that began in 1999, songwriters Grant McLennan and Robert Forster have equaled -- and maybe topped -- 1988's classic 16 Lovers Lane with Oceans Apart, an October heat wave of an album. Apart is the pair's most unified disc, thematically and otherwise. Forster's songs here, all place and memory, are Proust by way of National Geographic. His "Here Comes a City" turns an impressionistic narrative about four people on a Frankfurt-bound train into a fast-spinning postcard zoetrope, and his album-closing "The Mountains Near Dellray" is a cameo carved in river rock. McLennan answers with the brief encounter of "Finding You," then maps interiors with "No Reason to Cry" and "This Night's for You." Despite a sound that's never been less than accessible -- lyrical arrangements, timeless chords, plain-spoken songwriting -- the duo has always operated just outside commercial boundaries. With Oceans Apart, the Go-Betweens settle into middle age communing with an audience rather than pursuing one, and the result is a perfect document of a journey...home.
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