Songs To Play
An archetypal Robert Forster album? Yes please! Here you go then – Songs To Play, his latest, his sixth – just his second since the passing of his Go-Betweens co-chief, pal and competing songwriter, Grant McLennan. With seven years between his last two albums and a book on the way about his time with Grant on the planet it’s fair to assume that plenty has been on his mind.
“Is the memoir finished?” comes the question in the second song, Let Me Imagine You. A very Go-Betweens-sounding guitar-jangle gem that allows him to play with words (is it “please don’t twitter” or “please don’t Twitter?”) And this continues on across Songwriters On The Run which imagines two musician-writers escaping jail and out on the lam.
Simple, acoustic guitar patterns frame songs about songwriting, singing about singing, art for art’s sake, from the drawly-Dylan-y And I Knew (Forster is almost more Robyn Hitchcock than Robyn Hitchcock) to the campfire-chug of A Poet Walks; the ghost of the (danger in the) past from his solo and band work forever hovers – thankfully. The very best of Forster’s work has always threatening to fall over headlong into pretentiousness, it’s that knowing flirt that makes it work.
Songs To Play isn’t quite full-joyousness but it more than hints that there’s some in the post, or at the least a reason to bound to the mailbox.
Little hints of R.E.M’s strange charms linger too – across Turn On The Rain in particular and Love Is Where It Is.
When Forster takes that love inward – to its logical extreme in fact – on I Love Myself And I Always Have you can feel a veteran writer smirking at the return to his earliest preciousness. Songs To Play isn’t quite the “lap of honour” that Love Myself suggests, but it is most certainly Forster still marching to his own beat, holding himself in high regard and enjoying the tumbling entendres, the gentle waywardness, the gift of a line, both melodic and lyrical.