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Robert Forster - The Candle and the Flame (Tapete)

2 February 2023

The Candle and the Flame, the eight solo album from former Go-Betweens co-leader Robert Forster, was made under trying circumstances: Forster’s wife Karin was battling ovarian cancer. That didn’t stop him, however, from taking the batch of tunes he’s already written, gathering his family around his home studio, and laying down the tracks that would become the record. Stripped down to just a few instruments and recorded without overdubs or headphones, the songs have an intimate, folky feel, almost like eavesdropping on a jam session. That’s the perfect vibe for the themes Forster explores here, from the nostalgic ruminations of “When I Was a Young Man” and “I Don’t Do Drugs I Do Time” to the optimistic romanticism of “There’s Always a Reason to Live” (“What you do matters,” he insists) and “Tender Years,” a love song that could become a standard for couples renewing their vows. Despite its title, “It’s Only Poison” hails from before his wife’s diagnosis, as do most of the other songs. The one exception is the opening track: “She’s a Fighter” strips down not only musically, but lyrically – “She’s a fighter/fighting for good” communicating everything that needed saying about Karin’s ongoing bout. The Candle and the Flame is so open, so unguarded, it almost takes you aback with its frankness. But it’s all in the service of honesty and commitment, qualities with which anyone with even the hardest heart and smallest soul can identify.