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And This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Jack Frost [Steve Kilbey of the Church and Grant McLennan of The Go-Betweens] December 24, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Both IELB and myself have posts up this weekend. It’s Christmas after all! I’m going to repost this, more or less from 2007, since first the time and name are appropriate, and there are a few more YouTube tracks available. But otherwise the text is as it was then because nothing has happened subsequently to make me change my mind. Two of the most interesting people working in Australian music throughout the 1980s and 1990s and on into the 2000s and two of my favourite musicians. Kilbey, who I’ll regale you all with in a future piece is still working away at it. McLennan died far too young in 2006 cutting short a career that had numerous highlights.

On foot of last week when soubresauts [where are you?] mentioned Steve Kilbey, and thinking – yet again – of all things Antipodean, my mind was drawn back to Jack Frost, the joint solo project between Grant McLennan of the Go-Betweens and Steve Kilbey of the Church. The two got together in 1990/1 and produced the first eponymous album. Working together on almost all the instruments it had a synth sheen put on acoustic guitars. Melodic, wistful and quite affecting it was probably purchased by no-one.

Two years later they reconvened for the harsher Snow Job, an altogether feistier affair. This time the guitars are more often electric and more clearly put to the fore. Jack Frost Blues and Dry Dock are fabulous songs. Angela Carter treading dangerously close to whimsy. Some think that overall the sound is closer to the Church than to The Go-Betweens.

And yet Robert Christgau – a vehement critic of the Church – notes that:

It’s 1993. Grant McLennan of the much-mourned Go-Betweens meets Steve Kilbey of the barely-missed Church for a second one-off, written and recorded on the spot and then stuck in a box until they find time to finalize it, which takes years. The songs evoke romantic moods and vague experiences rather than nailing the literal-cum-ineffable; the music strives for effect rather than detail or even ambience. By McLennan’s standards, it’s hokey, mysterioso, fulla keybs. Yet its schlock disposability and glam brio generate the crass charm McLennan’s class act too often avoids. Too bad only cultists will care–and worse still that they’ll probably reject it on principle. B+

I can’t find any YouTube video from the second album but there are two for the first [I can now!]. Every hour god sends…is here. I presume that it was released as a single. It gives a good flavour of one strand of the album… early 1990s percussion, partially synthesised… though it’s not my favourite of theirs.

Perhaps more representative is Thought that I was over you…

It’s more traditional in approach, has some fairly bitter lyrics which then subside into sadness and it is clear that the two of them are having a ball. 
My God! They look young. McLennan is even fresh faced. Well… it was 16 years ago [now 20 odd years]. The interplay between the two vocalists works well. There’s no egotistical mugging.

I’ve mentioned before how some years back I met McLennan briefly in a pub close to the Ambassador where the Go-Betweens had played that evening. In the course of a few words I told him how much I had enjoyed the Jack Frost project and he said a few very generous words about how much fun he’d had working on that with Steve Kilbey. Last year [2006], when the Church played Dublin, Kilbey played Providence – from the first JF album by way of a tribute.

It’s hard not to feel listening to these albums that they provided a real insight into two very different, but sometimes quite similar, talents and in a way led to a weird merging of those talents. I’ve listened to the albums over the years and even now I find it hard to entirely be sure who is singing what. And yet, Kilbey and McLennan have utterly different singing voices… I don’t know how it works… perhaps something of that antipodean slightly flat vocalisation that one sees with bands as diverse as the Chills and the Clean.

Actually, they’re not that diverse are they?

Anyhow, I’m sorry they never got together for a third album.

Since the above was written the songs on YouTube are much more comprehensive, so here are some new additions.

[Jack Frost:First album]

Providence [A classic Kilbey/McLennan composition]

Every Hour God Sends

Number Eleven [This strikes me as more a Kilbey composition, huge washes of keyboards, etc... but...it still gets me]

These next two songs, now available, always seem to me to be more McLennan oriented than Kilbey, and none the worse for it.

Even As We Speak

Didn’t Know Where I Was

[Snow Job:Second album]

Haze [Interesting sound, darker, less soft than the eponymous first album]

Running from the Body

Cousin-Angel

Angela Carter

Aviatrix [A good example of the more pared back sound of this album]

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