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RECORD RACK

Exciting Emigres : CHECK LIST**** Great Balls of Fire *** Good Vibrations ** Maybe Baby * Running on Empty

July 31, 1988|CHRIS WILLMAN

***THE RAVE-UPS. "The Book of Your Regrets." Epic. ***DANCING HOODS. "Hallelujah Anyway." Relativity.

These two emigre L.A. bands--the Rave-Ups from Pittsburgh and Dancing Hoods from Long Island--used to share the same bass player and still share a feisty-yet-marketable rock 'n' roll attitude. Following independent debut LPs, the Rave-Ups have issued their long-delayed major-label debut, while the Hoods are out with another, better heralded indie release. Both finally turn out to be as exciting on platter as at the Palomino.

Head Rave-Up Jimmer Podrasky has studied his Dylan well, meaning he's picked up the slightly arrogant, literary attitude without any of the obvious affectations.

The band name may be a little misleading--there aren't many fast-and-furious tracks here after the Stonesy, rubber-burning opener, "Freedom Bound." And listeners who vaguely recall hearing that the Rave-Ups were part of the "country-punk" scene will find scant outright evidence here. But it is there, just well integrated and disguised, like Podrasky's latent warm streak. Banjos and fiddles brighten up the hard, slashing sound. This is what John Cougar Mellencamp's Americana might sound like if his records were as smart as they are earnest.

Dancing Hoods opt for a more predictable but by no means less worthwhile straight-ahead guitar approach. The quirks here are more conceptual than musical--such as a ferocious version of Leonard Cohen's (!) "Diamonds in the Mine."

But the most precious gem here is the winsome power-pop ballad "Baby's Got Rockets." If program directors made decisions based purely on common sense and their ears, it would have gone Top 10 weeks ago.

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