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Look Who's Back . . . : Pop music: Loverboy, which personified the corporate hard-rock look and sound of the '80s, is going to give it another go, playing the Coach House on Wednesday.

June 20, 1995|BUDDY SEIGAL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Was that a trace of eau de Spinal Tap in the air? On the line was Mike Reno, lead singer with the reunited Loverboy.

Loverboy, of the gooney-bird hairdos, precious smiles, cute little headbands and red patent leather get-ups. Loverboy, which personified the corporate hard-rock look and sound of the '80s.

Reno sounded optimistic about Loverboy's prospects for the future. But, love it or loathe it, Loverboy seems a most unlikely band to attempt a comeback among the dark, Angst -driven rockers of the '90s. Along with such kindred bands as Journey, Styx, Kansas and Night Ranger, Loverboy was maligned by critics then and would seem anachronistic now.

But, Loverboy's back, for better or for worse, in the studio and on tour (the band plays Wednesday at the Coach House). And during a recent phone conversation, Reno, at 40, wasn't offering much indication of significant change in direction.

"We haven't changed, musically," he said. "The group's always been good, and now I think it's getting better. People are saying that the group sounds better than it used to. It's definitely not a letdown for anyone."

Loverboy was formed in Alberta in 1979 and, during its decade-long initial run, became a staple of commercial rock radio and the fledgling MTV. But, truth be told, time has not been kind to the band's place in history: The name Loverboy conjures up dim memories of rock-star posturing; simplistic, often sexist lyrics; bombastic arrangements, and a particularly preening stage persona.

*

Not that Loverboy was bad at what it did. Indeed, for those predisposed to Loverboy's brand of pandering fluff, it was perhaps the most quintessentially pure purveyor of its genre. Never pretending to be anything but what it was, Loverboy at least never unleashed anything as mind-numbingly self-important and wrongheaded as Styx's "Mr. Roboto" on a hapless world.

In any case, by 1989, with rock evolving away from the excessive styles of the decade, Loverboy called it a day.

"We wanted to take a rest," said Reno. "Music had really changed, It was getting heavier and heavier, with rap and all that stuff. We don't happen to write songs like that. But it seems like music is swinging back to melody and high energy, so we're breaking back in again.

"The difference now is that we don't take it so seriously. We used to use a lot of crutches and cosmetics, as it were, staging. We were using way more equipment than we are now. It just seemed like that was the way things were done in the '80s. Now, we just pack up a guitar and a suitcase and hit the road."

Loverboy's last album of new material was "Wildside," in 1987. Now, Reno said, "I've got a tape right here in my hand with 12 new songs. It's good enough," he thinks, that a new record deal might be imminent.

But, he noted, "we haven't been playing new material [in concert] because we've found that in the past, if people haven't heard it on the radio or seen it on MTV, they kind of give us that puppy-dog, twist-your-head kind of thing and go, 'I don't know this song, this is kind of weird.'

"So we're concentrating on powering out the 14 or 17 Top 40 songs that everybody remembers . . . basically, we're giving the people what they want."

Meanwhile, what does he say about anyone who would refuse to embrace Loverboy in the nihilistic '90s?

" 'Like I Care.' That will be the title tune off our next album. That's my personal attitude with regards to MTV, record companies and radio. If they want to put it on and play it, great. If not, it's not gonna end my world."

* Loverboy plays Wednesday at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano , San Juan Capistrano. Vesuvius opens at 8 p.m. $26.50. (714) 496-8930.

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