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RELEASES SHOW CONTINUING EVOLUTION OF PUNK ROCK

THE MIGHTY MIGHTY BOSSTONES; "More Noise and Other Disturbances" (Taang!). * * * 1/2

Fresh off their infamous Converse commercial, Boston's best band has served up another slice of what it does best - a bristling mix of punk rock, rock, funk and ska.What may be surprising about the Bosstones' second album is how much fun it is and also how well it holds together. While such diverse elements and influences usually lead to chaos, instead the Bosstones make it work with a sharp sense of humor and better-than-average musical talent.

For example, "Awfully Quiet" chugs along with a powerful brass attack to match Dicky Barrett's chainsmoked vocal growl - an unusual approach for a punk song. "Where'd You Go?" and "He's Back" match that song's manic energy with startlingly sharp ska.

Though some numbers go awry, most notably the psychedelic funk of "Cowboy Coffee," the album reflects a maturing band about ready to realize its potential.

MURPHY'S LAW; "The Best of Times" (Relativity). * * *

This aptly named New York quartet uses a similar musical approach to the Bosstones, but substitutes reggae for the ska and concentrates more highly on its hard-core punk side.

However, unlike its previous two releases, this Murphy's Law effort is more serious and a little less upbeat, with songs like "Did You Play War?" and "Harder than Who?" (sic) showing off a muscular riff-rock approach similar to the once-promising 24-7 SPYZ.

Despite that sometimes heavy-handed musical tactic, "The Best of Times" recovers nicely, especially with a bright and funny (although tuneless) cover of "Ebony and Ivory" and "Santa's Got a Brand New Bag."

"Big Spliff" and "Hemp For Victory" continues the band's fascination with Rastafarian culture, but frankly, that joke's starting to wear a little thin.

NIRVANA; "Nevermind" (DGC); * * * 1/2

If nothing else, this brilliant Seattle trio will be remembered for bringing the spotlight to the once-neglected Washington-area music scene.

That being said, "Nevermind" has already brought rave reviews and huge record sales to a band that has (at least so far) steadfastly refused to compromise its music - something that should be encouraged in today's music world.

Fusing rock, punk and even some heavy metal into their surprisingly dense mix, Nirvana writes songs like the Replacements and Husker Du used to: loud, fast power-pop that address well the concerns of their fans.

Forget "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and some other numbers that have garnered mass airplay; "Lithium" and "Territorial Pissings" best demonstrate the trio's bracing talents - and how!

NOFX; "Ribbed" (Epitaph). * * * *

Probably the most musically talented straight-out hard-core punk rock band, L.A.'s NOFX has finally made the album that everyone knew it could.

What's so absorbing about the quartet's fourth full-length release is the fact that, unlike many of its contemporaries, the band never gets too involved in heavy-handed sloganeering. Instead, NOFX features startlingly prominent guitar attacks that recall San Francisco's late, lamented Dead Kennedys alongside whimsical lyrics more akin to Philly's Dead Milkmen.

"The Moron Brothers," "Shower Days" and "El Lay" all further the band's powerful punk reputation. "Food, Sex & Ewe" encompasses slick ska, and "New Boobs" embraces '50s doo-wop.

Best of all, "Where's My Slice?" and "The Malachi Crunch" prove NOFX can write political rock but still keep it fresh. It's probably the best punk rock album released in the past five years, and that's saying something.

RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS; "Blood Sugar Sex Magik" (Warner Bros.). * * * 1/2

The fact that concert promoters have asked this West Coast quartet to headline this summer's Lollapalooza 2 tour just goes to show how far along the band has come.

Once a little-known punk outfit that mixed heavy-funk into its repertoire, the Chili Peppers have influenced many bands, including the increasingly hot trio Primus. "Blood Sugar Sex Magik," though, shows that the Chili Peppers still does it best.

"Give It Away," the dynamic first single that pays homage to Bob Marley, may start a new musical trend with its brilliant Rasta-funk, while the gentle "Under the Bridge" decries the sad state of the decaying Los Angeles. "The Righteous & The Wicked" and "Funky Monks" should also further the band's formidable reputation with their slinky, sinewy rock.

About the only thing that could hold this band back are nagging doubts about their dedication to their music. But if the new album is any indication, the '90s could be their decade.

24-7 SPYZ; "This Is . . . 24-7 SPYZ!" (East-West Records America). * 1/2

Once a promising "black-rock" quartet, two of 24-7 SPYZ' members banded together after disastrous in-band squabbling to make this mini-album. They shouldn't have bothered.

Though "Tick, Tick, Tick" follows along the same lines as earlier SPYZ material (a hot mix of funk, rock and metal), and even manages to smoke somewhat, replacements for the band's original drummer and vocalist simply aren't up to snuff throughout the remaining three songs.

Worst of all, covers of "Peace & Love" and "Earthquake" are pointless metallic drones without any discernable sense of humor - something the band once had in excess.