In 1978, when the Go-Betweens were a fledgling trio playing punk shows in Brisbane, Australia, they covered both the Monkees and the Velvet Underground. More than 25 years later the group--which expands and contracts around the core duo of singer-guitarists Grant McLennan and Robert Forster--is still trying to reconcile naked pop ambition with high-minded, eccentric songcraft. During the 80s they alternated between releasing stark, angular albums like Before Hollywood (1983) and making stabs at the big time like Tallulah (1987), whose gaudy production features the worst drum-machine sound of the 80s. McLennan and Forster pursued solo careers in the 90s and re-formed the band after taking a splendid acoustic tour together in 1999, putting out two low-key discs, The Friends of Rachel Worth (2000) and Bright Yellow Bright Orange (2003), that traded in their old twisted wit for rueful nostalgia. On their latest, the slick Oceans Apart (Yep Roc), they're back to chasing the brass ring. Forster fares better: swirling sonics enhance the impenetrable lyrics of his tune "The Mountains Near Dellray," and the brisk "Here Comes a City" updates the groove of "Life During Wartime" while posing the question "Why do people who read Dostoyevsky always look like Dostoyevsky?" But McLennan's earnest romantic plea "The Statue" crashes on an ice field of dated Pet Shop Boys synths. This show marks the first time Forster and McLennan have brought a band to Chicago since 1989. The Double and Robert Skoro open. Tue 6/14, 9 PM, Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace, 773-478-4408 or 866-468-3401, $15.