RICHARD HELL always seemed just a bit outside the game:

In the early '70s, his Neon Boys collaboration with Tom Verlaine was just too proto- punk, though the group's apocalyptic look and nihilist stance were taken as a point of departure by the British punk movement in the mid- '70s.

When Verlaine booted him and transformed Neon to Television, Hell joined an incipient Heartbreakers, where his semi-poetic angst clashed with Johnny Thunders' wholly raucous roll.

With a personal dogma defined by the anthemic "(I Belong to the) Blank Generation," Hell finally found a voice with the Voidoids, but watched his own career sink into same.

His latest album, "R.I.P," is a sort of best-of for someone who was not really all that good, but at least was there. It collects demo session tapes (copies, at that), live cuts and studio takes from a ten-year period; raw is the operative word here. The most notable song is the rough-edged 1975 Heartbreakers prototype for "Love Comes in Spurts," which would resurface in slightly different form two years later. Also featured are three 1977 Voidoid cuts that are laughably Kinks/Yardbirds/Rolling Stone-ish; lame covers of tunes by Fats Domino, Bob Dylan and Allan Toussaint; and two cuts from 1984 that seem half-Beefheart, half-doo-wop, including the schizo "I Been Sleepin' on It." What's best is Robert Quine's distinctive guitar work and the occasional turn of a Hellish phrase. RICHARD HELL -- "R.I.P" (ROIR Cassette A-134); appearing Friday at the 9:30 Club.