BIG DIPPER, one of the many veteran indie-label bands recently signed by an expansive major label, doesn't seem much altered on "Slam," its Epic debut. The quartet still sounds energetic, tuneful, eccentric and not quite ready for the big time.

Like the previous efforts from this underground supergroup (its members are alumni of such groups as the Embarrassment, Dumptruck and the Volcano Suns), the 14-track "Slam" features adroit arrangements and several sharp tunes, notably "Another Life," "Bony Knees of Nothing," and "Impossible Things." But the Dips don't seem equal to the latter song's boasts of "incredible things before breakfast" -- at least not consistently.

The oddest thing about "Slam" is how music-bizzy it is. There's a song about the Bangles, "Picnic"; a tribute to "The Monsters of Jazz" (a swipe at "The Sultans of Swing"?); a song about selling out (to Epic, presumably), "Blood Pact"; and even a well-meaning but incongruous cover of Mott the Hoople's rock-on-the-road epic, "All the Way to Memphis." Maybe next time they'll have settled down enough to concentrate more on the music and less on the biz.


"Slam" (Epic). Appearing Saturday with the Aquanettas and Plan B at the 9:30 club.