It's the usual story. You don't realize you have the problem until it's too late. Before you know it, you're gorging yourself on "The Night Owls," stashing a secret copy of "4" under the sofa, making lame excuses to run errands so you can crank up "Don't Stop Believin'" on the car radio. Face it, you've got rock-schlock bulimia.

No one knows exactly why this disease has reached such epidemic proportions over the last two years, or even what the true causes are, though theories abound. But the symptoms are universal:

1. A drastic decrease in BTL (banality tolerance level).

2. Compulsive consumption of light-metal substances such as Foreigner, REO, Journey and Rush.

3. Reaction, both psychological and physical, to the dangerous levels of these substances after prolonged ingestion, usually exhibited as a pervasive sense of cultural shame but often accompanied by reflexive probing of the epiglottis with the finger to induce gagging.

Too much Foreigner, like too many Fritos, is the kind of trashy indulgence that comes from a general sense of boredom. And judging from the record sales of that group and others of their ilk, we are bored, bored, bored.

The banality itself is a lure. There's no threat of surprise or dynamics in the crunching decibels of REO's "Take It on the Run." One need not be a pop-lit connoisseur to understand any of the treacly sentiments warbled by Journey's Steve Perry. Even Junior Walker's panting sax on Foreigner's "Urgent" is merely cream filling in an otherwise doughy, over-processed sexual confection.

Radio can be blamed for the spread of this epidemic, but that doesn't explain why otherwise healthy consumers have been buying these records in droves, the better to binge behind closed doors. More than any sins committed on the airwaves, this trend reflects a lack of willpower to resist what appeals to the gullet when the gray matter is on overload. Schlock rock has become the ketchup and tofu of an audience not quite hungry enough for something substantial.

Below are some of the tastier junk tunes, along with their antidotes. So take solace in the fact that you're not suffering alone. Shut the doors, draw the shades and pig out on pop pap washed down with plenty of synthesizer.

This, too, shall pass.

Junk: Foreigner's "Waiting for a Girl Like You." Antidote: Au Pairs' "Playing With a Different Sex."

Junk: Little River Band's "Take It Easy on Me." Antidote: Rolling Stones' "Start Me Up."

Junk: REO Speedwagon's "Take It on the Run." Antidote: Grace Jones' "Pull Up to the Bumper."

Junk: Olivia Newton-John's "Physical." Antidote: Laurie Anderson's "O Superman."

Junk: Loverboy's "Working for the Weekend." Antidote: Gang of Four's "To Hell With Poverty."

Junk: Anything from Journey's "Escape." Antidote: Anything from Jerry Harrison's "The Red and the Black."