the arkive

  • The Go-Betweens - Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express
  • 1. Spring Rain
    2. The Ghost and the Black Hat
    3. The Wrong Road
    4. To Reach Me
    5. Twin Layers of Lightning
    6. The the Core of a Flame
    7. Head Full of Steam
    8. Bow Down
    9. Palm Sunday (On Board the S.S. Within)
    10. Apology Accepted

The Go-Betweens

Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express

Beggars Banquet
Released 1 March 1986

Based around songwriters Robert Forster and Grant McLennan, The Go-Betweens were perhaps the quintessential cult band of the '80s: they came from an exotic locale (Brisbane, Australia), moved to London in a sustained bid to make a career out of music, released album after album of music seemingly tailor-made for the radio in spite of their having little use for contemporary Top 40 musical/lyrical formulas, and earned considerable critical praise and a small but fervent international fan base. Although the Go-Betweens were absent throughout the '90s before re-forming in the new millennium, both of the band's songwriters embarked on respectable solo careers in the interim and, while rarely reaching the heights the Go-Betweens scaled, they still managed to uphold the group's legacy.

Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express is the fourth album by The Go-Betweens.

From PopMatters:
1986’s Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express opens with “Spring Rain”, a mid-tempo countrified tune featuring the strong give and take chorus from vocalists Robert Forster and Grant McLennan. Reeking of all the melody and infectious Brit, er, Aussie pop it’s capable of, it glides along without any need for tweaking. It’s a number you’d want to replay just before it fades out, resulting in more whistling and/or toe-tapping. A somewhat Celtic folk feeling graces the winding and refreshing “The Ghost and the Black Hat”, a song never withering from its seaside accordion touches. But they up the ante again with a slow and somewhat maudlin, yet swaying, lush and orchestral “The Wrong Road”, a blueprint for what would work for Brit pop bands in the years to come. As NME writer Andrew Mueller aptly says in the liner notes, “Here was a band who knew well what resulted if you held roses too tightly.”

The strong pop sensibilities are also shown on the simple but highly polished “To Reach Me”, recalling The Cure’s early work to some degree. One highlight is the faster, urgent sound of “In the Core of the Flame” with its violins, viola or both. The hi-hat is just as crucial thanks to Lindy Morrison, propelling the song in the same way bands like Franz Ferdinand or The Killers currently have to great effect. The lone drawback might be the laissez faire attitude on “Head Full of Steam”, a track whose title misrepresents it totally. Fortunately “Bow Down” sounds timeless as the singer talks about his lover opening his mail, among other things. The subtle acoustic guitar is the icing on the cake though. After the horn-tinged “Palm Sunday (On Board The SS Within)”, the album ends with the pristine “Apology Accepted”, a majestic, acoustic-based tune that is part pop and part alt-country.