Breaking & Entering: A look at acts breaking at radio and retail and entering Billboard charts. This week: Aqualung.

Profiling acts breaking at radio and/or retail and entering Billboard's charts.

NOT JETHRO TULL, MY FRIEND: "WE@VE BEEN F***ING KIDDNA_PED," writes Aqualung's Ben Hales in a May 1 online tour diary entry from Kansas. It isn't until the following day, en route to Minneapolis during the North American leg of the group's U.K./U.S. tour, that he elaborates.

"I was in the front lounge on the bus and Matt and Claire were hanging around outside when Cary comes up and starts this argument," he says, referring to Aqualung frontman Matt Hales, the tour's press and merchandise coordinator Claire (last name unspecified) and opening act Cary Brothers.

The tongue-in-cheek entry recounts a heated discussion with Cary claiming "Garden State," the soundtrack for which featured his band's "Blue Eyes," was "a lot cooler" than "A Lot Like Love," which has a soundtrack that features Aqualung's first U.S. single, "Brighter Than Sunshine."

Hales continues that when the scuffle starts getting serious, "I go to see what's going on, but when I walk out of the door Claire karate chops me in the throat... Now Claire's got her foot in my back and my face is on the pavement, and I'm trying to speak but nothing's coming out... and they're all laughing and the [bus's] bay door slams shut."

Blurry-eyed after a night kept under the bus by his captors, Hales confronts Claire: "You chopped me in the f***ing throat," he writes. "I can't believe it. You're Canadian."

Such imagination is found throughout Aqualung's U.S. debut, "Strange and Beautiful" (Red Ink/Columbia). Though no kidnapping stories are told, Matt Hales' ethereal voice delivers string and piano-laced lyrics of unexpected love, devastation and devotion, co-written with his brother Ben. The set debuted at No. 38 on Billboard's Top Heatseekers list last week.

The act first gained exposure in Britain, where the title track was featured in a Volkswagen Beetle television spot in 2002. Fresh from the Britpop act the 45s, which had just been dropped from Mercury Records, Hales started getting calls from record companies wondering about the voice behind the commercial. While finishing "Strange and Beautiful," the singer settled on the name Aqualung and signed to B Unique Records, who released the set in the United Kingdom.

Two years later, the London-based act released the feel-good "Brighter Than Sunshine" in the U.S. as a preview to its first U.S. full-length. Aqualung will continue its North American tour with Cary Brothers through July.

LINKS:
Artist: www.aqualung.net
Label: www.columbiarecords.com