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RUBINOOS (Buy CDs by this artist)
The Rubinoos (Beserkley) 1977
Back to the Drawing Board! (Beserkley) 1979
Party of Two EP (Warner Bros.) 1983
With Strings Attached (Starfire) 198?

The adolescent Rubinoos' inclusion on Beserkley's highly selective roster may have been related to the fact that guitarist T.V. Dunbar had a brother in Earthquake, the label's charter band. Or it may simply have been that someone noticed they were a great, fresh-sounding pop band with talent far beyond their tender years. A clear, no-frills approach, solid original songs and convincing vocals (from Jon Rubin, the group's namesake) made them eminently likable, and earned the band a moderate national hit with Tommy James' "I Think We're Alone Now." Their first album, which included the single, also boasted a nifty white-soul tune called "Hard to Get" and a lightly raucous rave-up, "Rock and Roll Is Dead." Although a bit bland, The Rubinoos doesn't have one bad song, half-baked performance or dumb lyric. Slight but fun.

Their second album, named after the band's brush with the big time, found them a bit more mature but less self-assured. Except for one superb Raspberries soundalike ("I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend"), the record seems too anxious to please, and suffers from noticeable timidity and fewer memorable songs.

Reduced to a duo of Rubin and Dunbar, the Rubinoos drifted back into view four years later with Party of Two, a disposable EP of five slick pop songs produced and played by Todd Rundgren and Utopia. All the right components are in place — melodies, harmonies, meaningless lyrics, etc. — but there's no youthful spark left to ignite any serious excitement.

[Ira Robbins]