The Go-Betweens
w/Dolorean
Thurs June 16, Triple Door, 7:30 pm, $17.50 adv/$20 DOS,all ages.

Forgive the self-centered kickoff, but never did I dream that one day I'd be writing a live preview for the motherfucking Go-Betweens. Since my almost arbitrary purchase of a $2.99 cutout (remember those?) of the band's new-at-the-time fifth record Tallulah in 1987, they've provided me with unique artistic pleasures that have only grown richer with time-by which I mean age. As a Smiths-soaked teen, I latched onto the Go-Betweens' melodic beauty and kicky tunes, and if the lyrics weren't as gripping as, say, "Bigmouth Strikes Again," I always had my Morrissey. Now, as a thirtysomething who has navigated some big-ass relationships and worshipped good art, the Go-Betweens are musical treasures, writing grown-up love songs with sentiment enough to lace their most gorgeous melody around an ode to fidelity. They were also smart enough to compose the opening couplet "Feel so sure of our love/I'll write a song about us breaking up" then chase it with the fiercest track of their career, and ambitious enough to stay several steps ahead of everything considered pop music at the time.

Throughout the Australian band's string of '80s albums-Send Me a Lullaby, Before Hollywood, Spring Hill Fair, Liberty Belle and the Black Diamond Express, Tallulah, and 16 Lovers Lane-the band's increasingly generous melodies (left increasingly unmolested by drummer Lindy Morrison's once-signature rhythmic idiosyncrasies) tempted critics and fans to believe the band's big commercial break was just around the corner. But despite the decade's proximity to the '60s and '70s-eras when artistic innovators regularly made the hit parade-the '80s never gave the Go-Betweens the gold ring, or even a "hit," and in 1990, the band released a career retrospective (the amazing but out-of-print 1978-1990) and wandered off in different directions.

Over the next span of years, the G-B's co-captains-singer/songwriter/guitarist Robert Forster and singer/songwriter/guitarist Grant McLennan-made music of their own, showcasing the songcraft that built the Go-Betweens, on records that met much the same fate as that band. Meanwhile, the stature of the G-B's '80s work continued to grow, amped by glamorous re-releases and a generation taught by alternative rock to embrace their aesthetic elders. Then came the resurrection. The year 1999 brought The Friends of Rachel Worth, Forster and McLennan's Go-Betweens reunion record, which was met with more immediate praise and attention than all their previous releases combined (in the U.S., at least.) And while beloved original drummer Lindy Morrison was no longer on board, Forster and McLennan enlisted an unassailable stand-in: Janet Weiss, the maniacal she-beast behind Quasi and Sleater-Kinney.

"We had a lot of affinity for quite a few bands in the Northwest," says McLennan, on the phone from Germany, where the fully reanimated Go-Betweens-McLennan and Forster, with new bassist Adele Pickvance and new drummer Glenn Thompson-have been playing to their biggest crowds ever. ("In Hamburg a few nights ago, there was almost a riot," says McLennan with bemused appreciation. "Thousands of people screaming, and we'd already done three encores.")

Of course it's wonderful whenever a longtime "cult" band whose artistry and influence far exceeded their initial worldly renown reassembles for a blowout victory lap (hello Pixies). But it's even better when such a tour is in support of (unembarrassing) new work: Since 1999's Rachel Worth, the Go-Betweens 2.0 have continued making music that miraculously feels at peace with their early work. Their 2001 release, Bright Yellow, Bright Orange, confirmed the band's status as alive and well and then some, but the new Oceans Apart is where it all comes together again: rollicking rock and ravishing melody, finicky lit references, and crystalline expressions of love.

Still, after two decades of loving the band strictly through their recorded output, the prospect of seeing them live both thrills and unnerves me, as if I'm about to meet a beloved pen-pal for the first time face-to-face. "This is going to sound simple or something," says McLennan, "but this is a really good time to see us. The band is really playing well, and the four of us can't wait to come to America, and, you know, kick out the jams."

As for good art getting its belated reward: "It's a lovely thing," says McLennan. "It's good when it happens when you're alive." ■

daves@thestranger.com