The Friends of Rachel Worth
(Jet Set Records)

After an 11-year hiatus, this album is a triumphant return for Australia's Go-Betweens. Singer-songwriters Grant McLennan and Robert Forster are joined by members of Quasi and Sleater-Kinney, who rough up the duo's skewed pop. McLennan and Forster split lead vocal and lyrical duties, each of them penning and singing five songs. McLennan's tend to be the more melodic pop tunes about battered hearts on tattered sleeves, delivered with the gracious confidence of a friend, as on "Magic in Here." Forster is the acid-tongued one, singing about being exiled on "German Farmhouse" and a doppelgänger on "He Lives My Life." On the last song, "When She Sang about Angels," Forster gives Patti Smith a loving piss-take, singing, "When she sang about a boy, Kurt Cobain, I thought what a shame it wasn't about Tom Verlaine." It's good to have these bitter sweethearts back, singing their unorthodox valentines. NATE LIPPENS

With Ghost
(Sub Pop)

Like the little antiquarian books they sell on their own Harvard-based publishing imprint, Damon and Naomi's latest album--a collaboration with the exotic Japanese prog monsters Ghost--is not much more than a benign curio. The really unnerving thing about it is, this kind of squishy New Age pabulum isn't what they were always about. Once upon a time, as the bass/drum foundation of Galaxie 500 and Magic Hour, this twosome were a boat-rocking rhythm section to be reckoned with. Here, it's all tranquil air. These two lovebirds have apparently achieved cosmic simpatico: Damon Krukowski's drums, which used to be so powerful, are now almost transparent. Naomi Yang's vocals, meanwhile, are so precious it makes one want to vomit red wine all over the restored Victorian tomes she and Krukowski hock full-time back in Cambridge. JOE S. HARRINGTON

American Don
(Touch and Go)

The first five songs of Don Caballero's latest, American Don, flow as one piece. It's math-rock at its square root, layered with guitar and syncopated bass that create geometrics of sonic intensity. Damon Che's explosive drumming centers and showboats the band's polyphonic experimentalism. Over the last few albums, Don Caballero has evolved from anxious noisecore into a new playfulness. The Pittsburgh band creates instrumental music that is about constant mutation--rhythm teeters and morphs while time changes, growing jazzier and freer. It's engaging, but the sense of experimentation and spatial jamming starts to lose its minimalist punch as the CD progresses. The mood doesn't vary enough to thoroughly transport the listener--and in the end you're left with a whole lot of creativity without enough spark to make it ignite. NATE LIPPENS

Car Alarms and Crickets
(Up Records)

What can one make of a band that is mostly machine? Octant is a technophobe's worst nightmare. Matt Steinke's wind-up toy instruments beat themselves silly as he and bandmate Tassy Zimmerman manipulate light-sensitive samplers and random tone generators to create a music with an almost entirely cerebral effect. Octant's live appeal, which is largely visual and visceral, is almost entirely lost in the translation. It is hard to get around the fact that the band's attractiveness lies as much in how they perform as in what they sound like. Car Alarms and Crickets is at its best when the band allows their pop sensibilities to rise above what would otherwise be just so many interesting electronic sounds. "What It Was" plays well, with its cool lounge beat and Tassy's vocals matched against a singsong keyboard melody. This song, as well as "Mince Up," with its driving Euro-techno feel, sets itself apart from the sonic hedonism of the album's more purely experimental tracks. NATE LEVIN

Hully Gully Fever
(Norton LP/CD)

"Dolemite is my name, and fuckin' up muthafuckas is my game!" Yep, that's how we know, AND luv, Mister Rudy Ray Moore... right? Well, 'fore our lily whites knowed him as an infamous, rhymin' luvva of wimins, he made his livin' as a MC, DJ, and recordin' artist. It's true. Them recordin's are serious shit, too--he hadn't yet begun recordin' "party" records, and he was a bona fide R&B performer. Yep, it's the real deal... Hully Gully Fever (LP with bonus tracks) contains his string of sax honkin' Big Joe Turner Jump Blues, Little Richard... um, well lemme just say, he was stompin' BLACK rock 'n' roll, with a greasy finger stuck in them blues, fer years. Now, if THAT ain't enuff, there's awesome "autobiographical" liner notes, and, secondly... the archive of photos! Lord, who would NOT wanna see "more poses of the world's most handsome man"? MIKE NIPPER

The Blossom Filled Streets
(Drag City)

Movietone's spindly, intuitive music conjures up the soundscape imagery its name implies. The pianos, woodwinds, and jazzy drumming create spare avant-rock that is hazy without being indistinct. Formed by Rachel Brook from Flying Saucer Attack, Movietone have shifted away from the more aggressive sonic outbursts of their earlier work. This album shows the band moving into soft-focus panoramas. It could be called dreamy, but there is something more tough-minded in their folksy mood than that describes. When Kate Wright sings on "Hydra," her voice is another element, as opposed to the focal point. She comes across like an untutored Margo Timmins of Cowboy Junkies, then drifts off, blending into the view. Aesthetes aren't usually this pretty without being precious, but Movietone pull it off splendidly. NATE LIPPENS