IT'S HARD TO BELIEVE that "Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams" is the BoDeans' debut album. The aptly titled record boasts a self-assured maturity that you usually find only in older country and soul singers. And this young rock quartet from Waukesha, Wis., has come up with one of the year's very best albums.
Most roots-rock bands try so hard to sound authentic that they end up betraying themselves, but the BoDeans tell their stories so patiently that it's hard to guess their age. Guitarists Sam Llanas and Kurt Newman write and sing the songs, which balance Llanas' honky-tonk country leanings with Newman's blue-collar rock impulses.
Songs like "She's a Runaway" boast Llanas' grainy drawl, a seductive melody and a narrative that's every bit as paradoxical as real life. "Still the Night" is the kind of song that will still be played at dances 20 years from now when everyone's forgotten who wrote it.
T-Bone Burnett is the leading candidate for Producer of the Year after his efforts on this and the Elvis Costello album. Burnett isolates the BoDeans' heartland qualities and excludes every bit of clutter or sloppiness. THE BODEANS -- "Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams" (Slash/Warner Bros., 9 25403-1); appearing Saturday at the 9:30 Club.