FORMER SUPERGROUP Bad Company has reformed, but without the best-known of its superstars, ex-Free and ex-Firm singer Paul Rodgers, who joined ex-Mott the Hoople guitarist Mick Ralphs to form the band's first incarnation in 1974.

In his place is Brian Howe, who has worked with Ted Nugent and is a less distinctive singer than Rodgers. That's appropriate, though, for Bad Company II is a less distinctive band than the original. Though there's a surprising country flavor to songs like "100 Miles," most of "Holy Water," the second coming's second album, is rote pomp-metal, virtually indistinguishable from the strum und drang of Whitesnake or Bon Jovi. "Boys Cry Tough," bluster the Bads, but these boys are just crying wolf.

Damn Yankees, another hard-rock supergroup, is torn between two precedents, the art-metal bombast of castrati-voiced Tommy Shaw, former Styx vocalist, and the fretboard gymnastics of Michigan barbarian Ted Nugent. The latter gets plenty of opportunities to show off, but Shaw inevitably carries the day -- not that it much matters when the two are fighting for the soul of such hackneyed retreads as "Rock City" and "Bad Reputation" (after it finishes with Iraq, maybe the United Nations could work out a moratorium on the latter song title). When his career was perking, Nugent didn't hang out with guys like this -- he hunted them down with bow and arrow.