The Apartments: The Evening Visits... and Stays for Years
The first album from one-time Go-Between Peter Milton Walsh plus attendant early material, spanning 1979-85. Moody and impressive. But loveable?
If the Go-Betweens were from a commercial perspective nearly men, then Peter Milton Walsh was nearly one of those. He was a member of the Go-Betweens for a short time in the early 1970s, when the Australian indie band almost got signed but then didn't. Walsh instead turned his attention toward his first band, the Apartments, who released their first EP on the label the Go-Betweens subsequently formed.
The Go-Betweens are generally regarded as one of the most under-appreciated indie bands of the 1980s, though they did have some brief dalliances with major labels and MTV. The Apartments, however, remained an even farther-below-ground concern, their major label moment coming only in the form of providing the b-side to Flesh for Lulu's "I Go Crazy", from the John Hughes film Some Kind of Wonderful. But that was in 1987, two years after the Apartments' debut full-length album The Evening Visits…and Stays for Years, and nearly a decade after Walsh quit the Go-Betweens.
The Apartments did have more success in Europe, and especially France, than anywhere else. This makes perfect sense when you listen to The Evening Visits…and Stays for Years. It's articulate, maybe more so than Walsh's Australian and English contemporaries. It's haunted, haunting, bleak, and unrepentantly melodramatic. In the mid-'80s, anything warranting the epithet "chamber pop" stood no chance in America, and probably not much more in Australia or England. But you can imagine Parisian sophisticates positively swooning over The Evening Visits…and Stays for Years.
They wouldn't necessarily be off base, either. There are rich pop moments here. The opening "Sunset Hotel" sashays in effortlessly on acoustic guitar, piano, and melody. "Aren't you haunted enough?", Walsh asks, "Shall I save love?". He then gives it his best go with the beautiful "Mr. Somewhere", with its wistful violin and wordless fa-la-la refrain. "Lost classic" surely is not going too far in describing this gem.
As The Evening Visits…and Stays for Years progresses, so too does it become darker and more moody. The mournful muted trumpet which opens "All the Birthdays" speaks volumes, as Walsh wails like a man who has lost all hope and is crying in the rain. "I'm slow with small talk," he says, "We used to get on famously / But now there's nothing to perfect." So much for saving love, then. The remainder of the album deals in stringy, sunken blues ("Speechless With Tuesday", "The Black Road Shines") and strummy, hang-your-head guitar pop ("Great Fool", "What's the Morning For"). By the time you reach a track called "Lazarus, Lazarus", which seems to chide the resurrected man for attempting some sort of narcissistic trick, it seems almost inevitable.
There's a cavernous, trebly feel to the production that is quite '80s goth, but it sounds contemporary in a way that now seems to predict the current musical obsession with that era. No, there is no doubt The Evening Visits…and Stays for Years is something to be admired and respected. But to what extent can it actually be enjoyed? It's possible to recognize a great painting and simultaneously not want it hanging in your living room. This album is similarly difficult to love. Some of this may have to do with Walsh's wild warble of a voice, which is off key as much as on. Also, the album is so moody that it almost demands a certain quiet, reflective context. Take away that context, and it seems overwrought and perhaps even a bit silly.
The inclusion of said Return of the Hypnotist EP from all the way back in 1979 plus both sides of the "All You Wanted" single (1984) certainly makes things more interesting if not more coherent. The '79 material is relatively straightforward, melodic indie pop, "Help" sounding like early Buzzcocks or Cure. "All You Wanted", though, is another true lost classic, approaching the Go-Betweens' immortal "Cattle and Cane" in terms of rarified melancholy.
A raft of inconsequential demos swells the original album's nine tracks to 20 in all. That's probably at least 15 more than you really need in order to appreciate Peter Milton Walsh's brilliance, at least in its '70s and '80s incarnations. Walsh has reformed the band with different lineups, the latest including fellow ex-Go Between Amanda Brown.
Things probably worked out for the best. Had Walsh remained with the Go-Betweens, that band's singular and great contribution to indie pop would have turned out quite differently. Plus, we wouldn't have an album like The Evening Visits… and Stays for Years to save -- most definitely -- for a rainy day.