16 Lovers Lane (Mushroom/Beggars Banquet)
Pansy Division Journeys to 16 Lovers Lane: Jon Ginoli of Pansy Division told us about his love for a Go-Betweens gem.
Jon Ginoli: Many of my favorite albums are by bands that are either raw, untutored, or primitive: The Fall, New York Dolls, Clash, Ramones, Stooges, Patti Smith, Old 97s, Mekons, Minutemen, etc. So how did the sleekly-produced 16 Lovers Lane by the Go-Betweens, released in 1988, end up being my hands down all-time top pick?
16 Lovers Lane is a gorgeous-sounding songwriting masterpiece, a triumph of melody and arrangement, where the music and lyrics complement each other perfectly. The title gives it away: it’s a romantic record, but an adult one, where the protagonists have moved past youthful rebellion. It’s one thing to be young and disaffected, and another to be a decade or more past that and still be befuddled.
The album is a kind of song cycle, but maybe more accurate to say variations on a theme. The first song, “Love Goes On,” opens with “There’s a cat in my alley way/Dreaming of birds that are blue/Sometimes when I’m lonely/This is how I feel about you.” In “Quiet Heart,” with two quarreling lovers in bed but unable to sleep, we get “What is that light? That small red light? Scorpio Rising?” And then: “Sometimes we don’t come through/Sometimes we just get by/But I know with you/I’ve never seen the devil’s eye” (“The Devil’s Eye”). The poppiest song, “Streets of Your Town,” has the most brutal lyric, of butcher knives and battered wives. And then “Clouds,” the one song not about relationships: “Told to equate achievement with pain/I took their top prize/And paid them back with rain.” But after all the tribulations comes the closer “Dive For Your Memory”: love may not last, but it’s worth striving for, our memories live on as long as we will, and life’s worth living. The yearning in the music matches the yearning in the words.
I lived in Los Angeles for about a year in 1988-1989 before moving to San Francisco, where I formed Pansy Division. That was when 16 Lovers Lane was released, and I bought it on a friend’s recommendation at Record Trader in Reseda. The Go-Betweens played Bogart’s in Long Beach around then, but I didn’t go, because while I liked the album it had not yet gripped me like it did later. In SF I became friends with a guy named Alex, who had also just moved to SF from LA, and later posed nude for the Undressed album cover. He turned out to be another 16 Lovers Lane devotee and had actually gone to that Bogart’s show. We’re still friends today.
Pansy Division Journeys to 16 Lovers Lane: Pansy Division celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Undressed debut album this year, with a short tour of the US. Go to pansydivision.com for more info.
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