“The initial impetus of the Go-Betweens,” singer-guitarist Robert Forster once remarked, “was a cross between the Monkees and Patti Smith. The Monkees were pop and bad poetics; Patti Smith poetics and bad pop.” Over the course of six groundbreaking albums released between 1981 and 1988 (recently reissued by Beggars Banquet), the London-by-way-of-Brisbane band progressively refined its sound from spare, angsty post-punk to lush jangle-pop without losing its original impulses. All along, Forster and songwriting partner Grant McLennan matched their memorable melodies to incisive lyrics. 78 ’til 79: The Lost Album compiles the Go-Betweens’ earliest efforts—two impossible-to-find singles and previously unreleased two-track recordings made in Forster’s bedroom—and presents the band when it was most beholden to the stripped-down rock ‘n’ roll and coffeehouse poetics of Smith and her New York New Wave compatriots. The hip-librarian love object of the decidedly Smith-damaged “Karen,” Forster sings, “helps me find Hemingway, helps me find Genet, helps me find Brecht….She’s my god….She’s my G-O-D.” “Long Lonely Day” even appropriates a line from Iggy and the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy.” The disc, however, is most compelling when the band asserts the individuality it would develop so successfully over the next decade. Songs like the exuberant, calculatedly goofy “Lee Remick,” the gorgeous, brittle “The Sound of Rain,” and the infectious, headlong “People Say” signal the Go-Betweens’ transformation from ’70s follower to ’80s trailblazer.

—Leonard Roberge