Australia's The Go-Betweens was not only one of the first indie-pop bands, but also an indie-pop prototype. Formed in Brisbane but later based in London, The Go-Betweens released six albums of perfect pop between 1981 and '88, one not radically different from another but each slightly better than the last. The band's first album, Send Me A Lullaby, is an auspicious and singular start that takes some of the rhythmic arrangements of Joy Division or the Cure and adds some strange melodic touches. The group would gradually play up its love of Dylan and play down its more angular punk elements, but surprisingly, Send Me A Lullaby finds most of the band's trademark elements intact. Given the spare and unsettled nature of that record, though, you might expect 78 'Til 79: The Lost Album to be even more basic and unpolished. But the biggest surprise of the disc—which collects material recorded before the band left for England—is that it has a lot in common with the brighter songs of The Go-Betweens' later years. The material on The Lost Album is almost all written by Robert Forster, who, along with Grant McLennan, wrote and sang all of the group's songs, but "Karen," "Day For Night," and "Just Hang On" have more in common with mod anthems from the '60s than they do with what was going on musically at the time. In fact, the strum of "Help Or Something" and "Love Wasn't Made For You And Me" find the band playing the kind of velvety pop for which such Antipodean acts as The Clean would become known: It's hard to believe this jangly version of The Go-Betweens came from the same scene as the aggressive, abrasive Birthday Party. Obviously, The Lost Album—with its lo-fi sound and not-quite-solidified vision—is for completists only, but when it comes to a band as compelling as this one, every fan inevitably becomes a completist. Those unfamiliar with The Go-Betweens should begin with Tallulah or Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express, or perhaps the new best-of coming out on Beggars Banquet. But be assured that once you start down that road, you'll ultimately and enthusiastically arrive at The Lost Album.

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