The Seven- Year Itch

"We thought that maybe our antics were taking over the music," notes Kujawa of the band's transformation from anarchic provocateurs to polished showmen who've learned how to follow a set list. "We said, 'Wait a minute. We're good songwriters. We have great songs.' So we're figuring that maybe now it's time to put those first, because that's what we're going to leave behind."

"It was more like, fans of good times rather than music fans," adds John, referring to the audiences drawn to those earlier, raucous shows. "I think music fans are gravitating toward us now because we're definitely more musical. We're focusing on the music now, and I think it's coming across."

Don't be misled, though: There's still enough energy during a typical Goods performance to power a small town. And the band still indulges its taste for fun via several side projects. Under the alias of Pud, the Goods and a few additional musicians perform hilarious lounge-lizard versions of rock standards such as Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven," Pat Benatar's "Hit Me with Your Best Shot," Van Halen's "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love," and Nirvana's "Come as You Are" -- all crooned by Kujawa in the guise of a vodka-swigging, stained-tuxedo-wearing megalomaniac front man named Leopold Pud, who bills himself as "the world's greatest entertainer." Cherry Bomb, meanwhile, is an even more high-concept undertaking, pairing up the Goods with well-traveled musician Pete Moss to play straightforward covers of songs the Beatles covered when they were still working the clubs in Liverpool, from Chuck Berry's "Rock and Roll Music" to Larry Williams's "Bad Boy."

For their regular appearances, though, the Goods have become more streamlined and focused. The band is now homing in on its buzzing brand of upbeat power pop, rather than embarking on situational experimentations and tossing in the country, punk, reggae, and other kitchen-sink flourishes that, while satisfying for the band's hard-core fans, may have provided a slippery handle for less-patient listeners. As John notes of the ambitious Mint, the Goods were trying to record their White Album, "and we haven't even done Meet the Beatles."

Such statements might elicit mixed feelings among the band's long-time fans, because much of the group's appeal is based not so much on their songs but on the unpredictability of their shows. The upside is that the Goods' newer material reflects their growth as artists who have figured out the best way to manipulate their chosen palette. "California" and "Snow Skies," to cite two examples, feature elegant, sweeping arrangements and lyrics that continue in the wistful, melancholic vein of Mint's operatic "Sweet Like a Song" and the tour de force "Train Song." Songs about childhood fears and adolescent dorkiness have been replaced by full-grown statements of loss, regret, and, ultimately, hope. After seven years of speaking to the inner child of their fans, the Goods are now addressing their audiences as adults. And they're still openly obsessed with getting signed to a label. "I was listening to an interview of us back in '90, and there was so much life, we were just throwing it out there," Jim says. "We were in total pursuit of this dream, which is fantastic, but we didn't have the knowledge to get there. I definitely believe that we're ready now."

The Goods perform Friday, January 12, at Rose's Bar & Music Lounge, 754 Washington Ave, Miami Beach; 532-0228. Showtime is 11:00 p.m. Admission is $5.

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