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DIRTY LOOKS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Dirty Looks (Stiff/Epic) 1980
Turn It Up (UK Stiff) 1981

If you can get past the flat, brittle production on Dirty Looks (try cranking it up loud), you'll find this Staten Island, New York trio (singer-guitarist Patrick Barnes, bassist Marco Sin and drummer Peter Parker) playing power pop with a vengeance. Chief assets: good melodic instincts coupled with tight, lean drive, like an adolescent Cheap Trick gone new wave. Moodily ranging through taut reggae ("Disappearing"), crazed quasi-rockabilly ("Drop That Tan"), even an emotionally masochistic ballad ("Lie to Me"), they may seem to let their depression run away with them, but when Dirty Looks soar, you might even be convinced that "rock'n'roll is still the best drug" (from the memorable "Let Go").

What a shock, then, to hear the trio descend into mediocrity on their second LP, despite production by Motor Nick Garvey. Halfbaked, full of misguided ideas and sputtering when it should smoke, Turn It Up slithers all too slickly.

The group did demos for an unreleased third album called Unsung Heroes in 1983; four tracks from it were included on 12 O'Clock High, an Italian career retrospective compilation, in 2002.

In the late '80s, an unrelated metal band surfaced calling itself Dirty Looks. Sin, whose real name was Marcus Robert Weissmann, died of drug-related heart problems in 1995.

[Jim Green]