Album Review: Robert Forster – Inferno

Inferno is Forster’s seventh solo album. The way Forster sings is almost conversational. Hearing these songs is like being immersed in a book of short stories, with Forster being an engaging storyteller.

He may not be a “real” singer, but Forster can certainly carry a song – in the same way that Lou Reed could – weaving a story with cheekiness, integrity and charm. And sometimes with a fuck you attitude. Inferno emits warmth, and it makes you glad that Forster still makes albums.

YMR Album Rating: **** (4/5)

Robert Forster. Pouty. Tongue-in-cheek. The co-frontman and lyricist in The Go-Betweens. Grant McLennan and Forster generated a fervent energy between them – writing their songs almost in a competitive fashion. A band that still remains underrated in Australia, despite a bridge being named after them in their hometown Brisbane. Forster, writing one of the most devastatingly beautiful songs ever with the track ‘Clouds’.

Inferno, is musically inspired, and has Forster reflecting in his own unique way. Factual. Not big on sentimentality. The album encompasses elements of rock, chamber pop and folk, incorporating guitar, keyboards, drums and gorgeous violin playing by Forster’s wife Karin Bรคumler.

‘Inferno (Brisbane in Summer)’ oozes sweat. Where summer is not just summer – it’s an oppressive inferno. That relentless heat with no escape, where the heat is so bad that you are “dreaming of ice“. And not the drug kind! The song is pure Forster, a sing that jangles away with drums and guitars – with Forster telling a story. The simplicity of the song is deceiving as the story becomes apocalyptic, with the heat driving people to an abyss, “The jungle is coming and so is the drought/The people are screaming/Let me let me let me let me let me let me out!!”

One of my favourites on the album is ‘Life Has Turned a Page’ – again Forster weaving a story, where you feel like you are opening up a photo album from the seventies, with all those yellowing photographs. Images of the seventies, young families, the surf, Byron Bay, Noosa and Wurtulla. A beautiful song about the evolution of time; non-sentimental, but delivered in a factual manner.

‘No Fame’ sounds as if it could have been on any The Go-Between’s albums, particularly The Friends of Rachel Worth or Oceans Apart. Brisbane suburbia has always featured in the work of Forster and McLennan – Brisbane in the sixties and seventies – where there has always been a sense of wanting to escape an underlying oppressiveness. As Forster sings, “And if I bust out and the highway is really the key“.

Forster has not garnered the same sense of popular acclaim as his contemporaries, such as Nick Cave or Paul Kelly. The Go-Betweens were more successful overseas than in Australia, and large scale success eluded them, despite the strength and beauty in their albums. ‘Remain’ continues in that conversational style, with Forster lamenting “I did my good work while knowing it wasn’t my time“. The song tugging the heart strings with gorgeous playing by his band, adding a poignancy to Forster’s lyrics.

Robert and his famous pouty face. And we love him for it!

Inferno strength is in Forster’s lyrics and his storytelling, which is enhanced by the overall warm feel of the album. Beautifully produced by Victor Van Vugt, with all the players adding a sense of emotionality to Forster’s songs. An album that is indefatigable in its gorgeousness.


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