In Your Bright Ray
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horsebreaker star

Word gets aroundÉ Grant McLennan released 'Watershed', his debut solo LP in 1991. It was a delightfully welcome return to the fray from the former Go-Betweens singer/songwriter, and went a great way to quenching the desire for classic, thoughtful Pop that the demise of that great group had brought on. It was a great soundtrack for end of summer leaving home - a road movie soundtrack for traversing the country, north to south. Leaving behind greyness, with sunshine and promise ahead. It seemed a fitting allegory.

His second LP 'Fireboy' though was a disappointment, the sunshine days refused, swapped instead for blustering storms, a return to the grey. Not what the world, or this boy at least, wanted to hear. The third, 'Horsebreaker Star' was much better. Sprawling and adventurous, exploring avenues of Country that McLennan's work had always hinted at, making them more explicit but thus, occasionally, less interesting. The sun, however, was showing through again through the chinks in the cloud.

Now, in the fourth Grant McLennan LP, the aptly titled 'In Your Bright Ray', the sun is again bright and burning with a return to the cohesion of his debut. There's still those clear Country twinges and twangs, but it's more in the sounds now than the structure, as though the previous experiments were consumed again within the Grant McLennan persona, allowing his innate knack for writing songs that sound like you've known them all your life free reign. So there's the occasional lapses of taste, when things slide back into the rock of 'Fireboy', with 'Malibu 66', 'Down Here' and 'All Them Pretty Angels' spoiling the mood in this way, but it's no major gripe, particularly since 'Malibu 66' provides some neat artwork in the accompanying booklet/sleeve. And as there are low points, so there are highs. The opening title track is a delight that breezes and hooks you into the following, like a pied piper of Brisbane weaving his seductive way. With 'One Plus One' I can't help but remember Haircut 100, but at least, unlike Heyward, Grant doesn't need the dubious honour of a Creation record contract to make him appear hip again. And the opening lines of "in the house, smell of tulips and peppermint" are just pure practical poetry. The poetics of everyday life. Similarly, 'Sea Breeze' is a straight lyrical tale of life grown old by the sea, and maybe it's just because I spent my life growing up with the Go-Betweens by the sea, but for me, the sea and coastlines have always been a big part of the landscapes (internal or external) of Mclennan's songs. Which is why, perhaps, the closing duo of the rollercoasting 'Do You See The Lights?' and the shuffling 'The Parade Of Shadows' are, to me, ghosts of times and places past. Musical Sunsets shimmering their glorious reflections over the estuary.

So just maybe Grant will never again write anything that matches the cool majesty of 'Cattle and Cane', or the easy shuffle of 'This Girl, Black Girl', bur he's nevertheless producing again enough work of worth to bring echoes of that past magic to life. And, more than this, he's making sounds which ring magic through the present. And maybe that's what we really should be concerning ourselves with afterall.

Alistair Fitchett. August 1997.