Yearbook snapshots

Back in 1996, the Rondelles were precocious punk upstarts singing about homework and hormones and playing nostalgic, bobby socks pop that blended garage rock with the shimmy ’n’ shake of ’60s girl groups. They weren’t overly retro so much as obsessively romantic, though, with guitarist-vocalist Juliet fawning over math-geek crushes and dishing out melodramatic one-liners for two-timers with her wannabe good girl-gone-badass sass. And even with all those cheerleader-styled shout-outs and kiddie keyboards, the teen trio managed to avoid sounding too cutesy and contrived if only because all of the members were still in high school.

Five years later — plus or minus a few band members — the Rondelles still haven’t outgrown all their adolescent angst. And judging by their most recent single, the annoyingly cloying "T.V. Zombie," (cq) what was once endearing as sweet 16-year-olds now seems forced and tiresome coming from the mouths of twentysomethings.

Maybe it’s for the best, then, that the Washington, D.C.-based band has opted to conveniently compile most of its nonalbum material on one CD instead of releasing a proper — and probably mediocre — follow-up to 1999’s The Fox. Consider Shined Nickels and Loose Change a sort of hit-and-miss minihistory of the band’s recorded output. Collecting 7-inch singles, covers, compilation tracks and two previously unreleased songs, the album shows the band at its best (early clap-along anthems such as "Strike-Out" and "Revenge") and worst (last year’s "T.V. Zombie" and the most recently recorded songs).

Shined Nickels may be an enjoyable release for new and old fans alike, but if — as this compilation hints — the Rondelles plan to keep singing the same, increasingly stale old songs when they head back into the studio, then maybe it’s time they seriously rethink their musical mission.

E-mail Jimmy Draper at [email protected].

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