As half the potent but unassuming songwriting force in Australia’s late great Go-Betweens, Grant McLennan created unapologetically smart and elegant pop gems. His superb new album Horsebreaker Star (Beggars Banquet), his third solo outing and his most accomplished, acquits him of any alleged reliance on partner Robert Forster. Recorded last year in Athens (Georgia, not Greece) with a cast assembled by producer John Keane (R.E.M., Indigo Girls), the album sets McLennan’s beautiful, often oblique tunes within crisp, bracing folk-rock attacks that accent his distinct melodic skills without smothering them. Neither mean-spirited nor sappy, McLennan exploits love as his prime topic but laces his poetic introspection with a healthy dose of wariness. “The best thing I ever did was dropping you” runs the hopeful refrain of the soaring “Dropping You.” McLennan is in the unfortunate position of having to open for the subject of a big Atlantic Records push, precocious 20-year-old singer-songwriter Jewel (no last name, thank you), but anyone who appreciates intelligent pop music shouldn’t miss this chance to catch him in such a spare setting. Wednesday, 8 PM, Urbus Orbis, 1934 W. North; 252-4446.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo/Ray Lego.