have been the recipients of their fair share of critical confusion. Punk, pop, garage, bubblegum, riot grrrl the Chicago quartet's press kit reads like a fanzine train wreck. For all the tart, hiccupping snarls from Rebecca Crawford's lips and their "boys are mean, throw rocks at them" themes, they're only slightly more punk than Green Day which is to say, not very punk at all. When their springy rhythms hurl against cheeky harmonies, power-chord guitar blast and Farfisa-organ lines, they sound closer to the '80s new-wave underground. (If the Dials didn't have tunes, their first album, Flex Time
, would be as forgettable as the Waitresses' second LP.) But they've got more hooks than a fight club and a few bruises, too: Drummer Doug Meis died last year in the same car accident that killed fellow Chicago musicians Michael Dahlquist and John Glick.