THE BRANDOS know what they're doing. From their film-school tough-guy name to their carefully chosen garage-band and roots-rock covers ("Strychnine," "Walking on the Water"), this New York quartet has studiously fashioned its Americana-drenched sound and image.

The band's appeal is embodied in its first single, the ringing but earthy "Gettysburg," which is already a WHFS regular. The Brandos' album, "Honor Among Thieves," doesn't have another song to rival that one, but the disc is so earnest and melodic that it seems almost peevish to point out that it's also predictable and a little wooden.

After the somewhat calculated stance of the Brandos, The Dead Milkmen's sophomoric anarchy is particularly refreshing. Though hardly the former band's equals as tunesmiths, the Milkmen have them beat hands-down in the attitude department -- if this Philadelphia foursome ever went to Gettysburg, it would be to deface the observation tower.

Though musically fuller and more diverse than the band's two previous albums, two sides of "Bucky Fellini" may be more youthful cynicism than most people would want to sit through in one listening. Tracks like "Instant Club Hit (You'll Dance to Anything)," though, are up to the smart-aleck standards of previous Milkmen classics like "Bitchin Camaro." THE BRANDOS --

"Honor Among Thieves" (Relativity 88561-8192-1). Appearing Friday and Saturday with the Slickee Boys at the 9:30 Club.


"Bucky Fellini" (Enigma ST-73260). Appearing Sunday at the 9:30 Club.