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Indeed, Boom Boom Baby doesn't waste an inordinate amount of time on subtlety. As a result, a radio edit of the title track (also the first single) is required -- and even so, the band ought to expect minimal warmth from programmers, as its chafed-raw funk/R&B setting isn't exactly airwaves friendly. Still, Boom does offer less brash options: "The Wrong Direction" nears a transcendent fusion of redneck boogie and cocktail jazz; "Spacesuit" is a worthy stab at glam psychedelia; and "Dancing at the Foot of Angels" is a sultry, intelligent cock-rocker's blues.

Largely, though, the Uglies' randy, well-traveled elixir is best ingested live. For there, among all the bodies and beer, sweat and other bodily fluids, a lamentable couplet like "I'll lick your pussy / I'll lick your lips" is finessed into submission by the sextet's spot-on groovesmanship. (** 1/2)

-- Hobart Rowland

Ugly Americans perform Saturday, May 9, at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge.

American Lesion
American Lesion
Bad Religion
No Substance
Atlantic

For 18 years, Bad Religion has gone about refining punk's few-chord formula into something far greater than the sum of its simple parts. Arguably the only aberration in an otherwise unwavering mission was a 1983 experiment in bouncy keyboard pop called Into the Unknown, which was largely disregarded by fans. Perhaps that has something to do with why chief songwriter/lead vocalist Greg Graffin chose to funnel his sensitive folk cravings into American Lesion rather than the new Bad Religion release.

And it's a good thing, too, because sometimes it's just plain disturbing to hear Graffin crooning like a post-apocalyptic Billy Bragg on American Lesion, deploying mostly frayed strands of piano and acoustic guitar to get his point across. At certain times, the music is loungey and light; at others, it's hillbilly trash, with lyrics that are far more personal -- and far less political -- than anything he's done with Bad Religion. And apparently, that's sort of the point.

But a little fumbled introspection is no match for 16 new, armor-plated Bad Religion cuts. No Substance marks the first time all the band members -- including Graffin, of course -- have participated in the songwriting process, and despite the more democratic approach, Bad Religion's uniquely politicized music and message remain pointed and consistent. No Substance isn't as fever-pitched as earlier Religion efforts, but the rip-roaring melodies of tracks such as "Shades of Truth," "In So Many Ways" and "Raise Your Voice" display the band's increasingly sophisticated hook sense.

And the group still has a way with vicious parody and bracing narrative. Especially amusing (and disturbing) is "The State of the End of the Millennium Address," in which a "self-appointed authority" gleefully offers "blatantly evident factoids" such as "the Internet has expanded our ability to pacify average Americans better than ever" and "the first word in USA is 'us.' " It's an exhilarating and outspoken scenario reminiscent of the sermon in "Voice of God Is Government" from Religion's 1982 debut, How Could Hell Be Any Worse? Wouldn't you know it: Some 13 releases later, Bad Religion is still on that long, hard path to becoming one of the more uncompromising bands of our time. American Lesion (**); No Substance (*** 1/2)

-- Sande Chen

Jimmy Ray
Jimmy Ray
Epic

"Are You Jimmy Ray?" inquires the insufferable hit single. Yep, that's him all right. Now, if we're lucky, he'll take that chiseled coif of his and go away ... far away. (*)

-- Hobart Rowland

Union
Union
Mayhem

In the "don't get mad, get even" vein of cashing in on former associations comes Union, the debut release from the band led by ex-KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick and former Motley CrYe warbler John Corabi (bassist Jamie Hunting and drummer Brent Fitz fill out the lineup). Both musicians, of course, were tossed aside in favor of their original counterparts when the two bands were hit with reunion fever.

That means Kulick and Corabi have something to prove -- not only to their former employers, but to fans itchy to see whether they can function on their own. Alas, on both counts, Union falls short. In fairness, the group does show an occasional spark when taking on standard, metal-by-numbers fare such as "Tangerine." They also exude a greasy funk aroma on the hummable "Pain Behind Your Eyes."

For his part, Kulick (always an underrated guitarist) leads a powerful consolidated attack on the raucous "Old Man Wise" and "Love (I Didn't Need It Anymore)." Corabi, on the other hand, has to be the out-of-the-gate favorite this year for Metal Edge's Blandest Singer honor. His one-dimensional middle range is ill-suited to pushing the limits of the more mediocre numbers -- of which Union has too many. In most every aspect, this Union needs more time to bond. (**)

-- Bob Ruggiero

Union plays Instant Karma Tuesday, May 12.

Press Ratings
***** Historic
**** Great
*** Worthy
** So-so
* Lame

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