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POP MUSIC : SUSANNA HOFFS “When You’re a Boy” <i> Columbia</i> ** 1/2

Hoffs launches her solo career not with a Bang(le), though not with a whimper, either. Her former femme foursome had long ago abandoned its self-contained, do-it-yourself roots, bringing in outside writers and players. (See article, Page 61.) So the sophisticated pop polish of this record is no real surprise. But it’s also no real achievement.

Never mind the title, or the botched electro-disco version of David Bowie’s “Boys Keep Swinging,” from which the phrase comes. And never mind that you’d think Hoffs would’ve had enough of pop pajama-party platters: This album is lyrically all about being a girl and musically often a giddy, updated echo of the classic girl groups.

That’s girl , not woman . There’s a certain amount of maturity in the moderate pace and anonymously detailed settings provided by producer David Kahne. And Hoffs certainly has a way of wrapping her familiarly attractive voice around such charming ‘60s-meets-the-'90s tunes as “This Time” and “Wishing on Telstar.”

But if Hoffs wanted to keep making adolescent froth, she could have stuck with the Bangles’ comradely vibrations. And if she wanted to step into adulthood, she should come up with more adult songs. She seems stuck in between.

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Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to five (a classic).


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