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Scare Tactics

Depending on which side of the Atlantic you hail from, the Boo Radleys' short creative attention span could be seen as either an asset or an Achilles' heel. In their native England, the Boos' seeming unwillingness to keep focused on any one idea is the stuff of renown. An up-and-down seven-year courtship back home -- during which the quartet battled its way to the upper reaches of the U.K. charts -- has seen the band veer from lo-fi noise entrepreneurs, to model shoe-gazers a la Ride and My Bloody Valentine, to humorless Brit-pop revisionists and, ultimately, to a wiggy melange of all the former. Simply by sticking around, the Boos have helped ensure that flakiness is not only an acceptable trait in Euro-rock circles, it's taken for granted.

Still, even if the Boo Radleys' stylistic disunity has come to be seen as a blessing in England, in the States the band remains an incorrigible pain in the ass. Try as they may, the Boos have had little luck in cracking the U.S. market. C'mon Kids, the group's latest CD, hasn't as yet steered many new ears in the band's direction -- though it has confirmed the Boos' patchy brilliance to a devout cult following, one that includes more than a few in the music press.

As usual, the group's chief songwriter, Martin Carr, is probing the depths of the pop-trend trash bin with tongue firmly in cheek. Aside from the requisite Fab Four references, Carr dabbles in less proven nostalgic experiments, sandwiching mid-'70s Pink Floyd between the glitter-era camp of Bowie and Marc Bolan, then slathering the whole thing in a lush batter of swirly keyboard effects and errant distortion. On C'mon Kids, the Boos tease us with lovely acoustic strumming and kitschy vocal references to the Hollies, the Beach Boys and even folk-pop relics the Association before shaking us awake with a hail of Who-inspired riffing. Add to that some contemporary splashes of trip-hop doodling, ludicrous sound bites and sci-fi special effects, and the Boos have fashioned yet another exhaustive aural collage that demands close inspection. The payoff for that effort? Choruses that won't leave you alone and hooks that should haunt the memory months down the line. Heck, the Boos even one-up Oasis with the sweeping acid-pop epic "Ride the Tiger," a song that makes the Gallaghers' "Champagne Supernova" sound fizzier than a soft drink commercial.

Actually, a little more than year ago, the Boo Radleys would have done quite nicely in their own soft drink commercial -- in Britain, anyway. The band was enjoying its first hit with 1995's Wake Up!, and televised appearances on the BBC hit parade Top of the Pops, as well as on a few corny children's shows, transformed the band into minor media celebrities. Given that, it appears the band's conquering America campaign is reaching a critical stage. The Boos went so far as to ship C'mon Kids to Boston for a final mix by vaunted Fort Apache producers Sean Slade and Paul Kolderie, who helped do wonders for Radiohead's stateside clout. But so far, C'mon Kids has yielded no hits to speak of. And if kids here don't come around soon, this could be the last we see of this clever bunch on our shores for a long time to come.

-- Hobart Rowland

The Boo Radleys open for Better Than Ezra Thursday, May 22, at the Abyss, 5913 Washington Avenue. Tickets are $12. Doors open at 8 p.m. For info, call 863-7173.

Susanna Hoffs -- She may not be in the spotlight quite like she used to be, but Susanna Hoffs hasn't exactly stopped jangling since her eight-year tour with the Bangles ended. In her solo life, she's released two albums, the most recent, Susanna Hoffs, painting a portrait of the artist's life with the help of friends from Cracker, the Go-Go's, Jellyfish, Four Non Blondes and Fleetwood Mac. The product, though, is all Hoffs's, brimming with intimate reflection about becoming a mother, falling in and out of love and breaking ties with her former label. For those who prefer the lighter side, she leavens her lyrics' contemplative mood with happy-go-lucky melodies. Hoffs's on-stage act is a relaxing one, and with her penchant for romantic ballads, the show should be especially appropriate for couples -- the live-music equivalent of a good date movie. At the Urban Art Bar, 112 Milam, Thursday, May 22. Doors open at 8 p.m. Tickets are $8 (21 and up) and $10 (minors). Lincoln opens. 225-0500. (Carrie Bell)

Regina Belle -- Soulful songstress Regina Belle's new CD, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (hmmm, think self-help guru John Gray's getting a cut?), may not really answer where men are from, but with its lineup of covers of tunes made famous by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross and Roberta Flack, it surely makes clear where women are from -- or at least women who have the otherworldly pipes of a Regina Belle. This CD marks a transitional stage for Belle, who made a quartet of albums for Columbia and picked up a Grammy along the way for her efforts. She's now gone over to MCA, and before starting on her debut CD for that label, she's making a few club stops to keep her chops up -- or maybe just to spread a little interplanetary goodwill. At Rockefeller's, 3620 Washington Avenue, at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Thursday, May 22. Tickets are $22.50, $34.50 and $39.50. 869-TICS. (Craig D. Lindsey

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