Go-Betweens Swim "Oceans"

Australian rockers craft more well-kept pop secrets

March 9, 2005 12:00 AM ET

While wandering down a London street in between recording sessions last year, Grant McLennan -- one-half of Australian songwriting duo the Go-Betweens -- happened upon the title of the band's new album.

"There was this strange bar down by all the other bars," McLennan says. "It looked like a Miami Versace bar, a fish out of water. The name of it was Oceans Apart, and I thought it was really cool to name a record after a bar -- I mean, the Doors had an album called Morrison Hotel."

Due May 3rd, Oceans Apart marks the band's third album since returning from an eleven-year hiatus in 2000.

"There's a real confidence to it," McLennan says. "A real attitude. I like it when bands get a bit cocky."

McLennan and partner Robert Forster formed the Go-Betweens in 1978 at Queensland University. They were later joined by drummer Lindy Morrison. The group's blend of wistful guitar pop and gritty post-punk made them darlings of the Eighties underground, but they never broke commercially. In 1989, after releasing six albums, the band split.

"I think that's what saved us," Forster says. "Just getting away from each other was important. It was liberating, and we came back fresh. We're not walking caricatures of what we were. We're still functioning human beings."

Like its predecessor, 2003's Bright Yellow, Bright Orange, Oceans favors mellowed acoustics and lush vocals. Songs include the reggae-influenced ballad "Lavender" and "Statue," which McLennan describes as a cross between the Pet Shop Boys and Bob Dylan. But it's the album's opening pop nugget, "Here Comes a City," that Forster believes will "open doors."

"That song could have been on any great soundtrack over the last twenty years," he says. "But it's in the hands of the Gods and radio programmers . . . who I'd like to bribe."

After a month-long European trek, the Go-Betweens plan to return to the U.S. in June, perhaps looking for inspiration for their next of many recordings.

"Our best album could still be in front of us," Forster says. "It's been a strange road, but we feel comfortable in our skins."

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