Here's hoping this handful of promising pop records by local folk'll open your ears to the hometown sound:

RUDE BUDDHA -- "Blister My Paint" (Green Triangle GT-22468). Strong personality permeates this six-song EP by a Charlottesville band with literate lyrics, and most important a good beat. Rude Buddha's distinctive, compulsively danceable sound forged from some familiar influences -- there some Ric Ocasek, David Byrne and Kate Pierson in bass player Jenny Wade's throaty highspeed vocals and some B-52s snap and fleck in Brian Daley's Roland guitar synthesizer. Drummer Spencer Lathrop provides a punchy, pounding bottom and cross-rhythms.

THE NINTH -- "Planet Love" (Elysium ELY-1001) Making the most immediately impressive local record debut in some while, this Falls Church five-piece effortlessly produces the perfectly polished pop of "Planet Plve. The band takes its name from leader David Van Ninth, whose made-for-radio melodies and craftily catchy lyrics are a tug of war between airy Beatles harmonies and decidely Princely rhythms. "Planet Love" kicks off with a trio of winners that might be hits if local bands could get on the radio, and in "Proud To Be a Human," "All Undressed With Nowhere To Go" and "My Baby's Got A Bomb," the music is more than a match for the titles. Watch this band.

THE SNAKES -- "I Won't Love You 'Til You're More Like Me" (Dischord 18). The Snakes are a noisy, funny neo-hardcore band whose pop roots are showing. On brief blasts like the insightfully funny title track, Simon Jacobsen and Mike Hampton come off like a two-man Red Hot Chili Peppers, with a more freewheeling sense of humor than many hardcore outfits. use the title of Ntozake Shange's play as the springboard for the anti-suicide scream "For Colored Girls"; more wit shows in "Serv-Pro Joe" about a lonely fuel oil delivery man; in the def rhythms of "Snake Rap," and the Beatles-ish tomfoolery on "Greek Song" a goof about carryouts. Recorded in 1983 and produced by D.C. hardcore kingpin Ian MacKaye.

WISHES AND WATER -- "Wishes and Water" (Fountain of Youth 013) -- This self-titled six-song EP starts seductively with "Ocean City," an evocative pop gem that rocks tranquilly. Though the singer keeps saying "I'm so happy here," the song's melancholy melodic undertow belies the words. The rest, including a nice cover of Velvet Underground's "Perfect Day" is folk-tinged stuff, and while it is pretty and appealing, one wishes it weren't quite so watery and precious. There's a hint of the Smiths' Johnny Marr in Matt Riedl's guitar filigree, and producer Steve Carr achieves an airy balance between Derrick Hsu's subtle electronic washes and Sue D.'s nickelodeon piano.

THE SOURCE -- "Building Bridges" (Picture Window PWR -0007) This positive pop outfit has a sound very reminiscent of early Talking Heads on songs like "Good, Good Feeling" and "Lift Yourself Up." There's real muscle in the metallic guitar and projectile bass and percussion, but a reliance on generic rock vocals and bland backing harmonies make The Source sound like an anonymous bar band, and the slightly fuzzy production docks them another notch.