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NEIGHBORHOODS (Buy CDs by this artist)
Fire Is Coming (Mustang) 1984
... the high hard one ... (Restless) 1986
Reptile Men (Emergo) 1987
Hoodwinked (Emergo) 1990
The Neighborhoods (Third Stone/Atlantic) 1991

This veteran Boston trio's appeal is immediate: they sound good. Nothing fancy or intricate, just good tunes, good vocals, good rock'n'roll drive and feel. Leader David Minehan (guitars, singing, songs) ain't exactly a lyrical Einstein, but he's no stoop either.

The group started out playing strong power pop (a 1980 single, "Prettiest Girl," remains a local classic) in the wake of British neo-mods. The eight-song Fire Is Coming is a get-your-feet-wet proposition, relative to the albums; a likable pointer to the future. The production is a bit thin, but you can tell what the horns on the very first track (ambitious idea) were meant to sound like. The cover of "If I Had a Hammer" was a great idea, enthusiastically (if unimaginatively) executed.

The first two full-length LPs show maturation; both are full of instantly memorable tunes, though the earlier outing still has some sincere but clichéd lyrics. The production on high hard one is plain but crisp; Reptile Men's sound is fuller and punchier. The Who influence (the EP's horns were a hint) is more early Who on high hard one, middle Who on Reptile Men (the silly part is the use of "Tommy" and "Pure and Easy" as song titles, but the rest reflects an unslavish Who's Next influence). Solid rock'n'roll.

The trio virtually goes arena-rock on Hoodwinked (later revised and reissued as The Neighborhhods), co-produced by Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford. But the 'Hoods avoid the posturing and overstatement that normally goes with the territory, and the songs are consistently decent. (Notable exceptions: Minehan's paean to Evel Knievel and a pointless rehash of Cheap Trick's "Southern Girls," minus piano and the panache.) Unfortunately, the band's identity has all but vanished into this punchy yet slick conventionality.

[Jim Green]