There's that splendid moment for every band when, after years of touring, they finally receive some recompense. Last year, The Explosion had theirs when they became the subject of a major-label tug-of-war. After months of bean burritos in their hometown of Boston, they were soon in Hollywood, land of steak dinners, and like any reprobate rockers, they pushed it as far as it would go.

"We got put up in a hotel for a week and a half when we were going to some of those meetings. We spent a lot of their money on stuff like haircuts ... . There was one label that spent $15,000 in one week, and then we're like, 'Sorry, I don't think we want to sign to your label anymore,'" says Explosion singer/guitarist Dave Walsh. "It's ridiculous how much money people are willing to spend on you if they think they can work with you. And dicks like us are willing to take advantage of it."

The quintet burst on the scene five years ago, first with a self-titled EP on Jade Tree, and then with their incendiary first album, Flash Flash Flash. It featured high-throttle late-'70s U.K. punk with shout-along choruses and machine-gun pacing, with the pissed-off attitude and angry polemics of The Damned, Stiff Little Fingers and Sham 69. Four years later, after a pair of intervening EPs, they're finally about to release their second full-length on Virgin Records.

A preview EP, Red Tape, presents a band with hooks more pumped up than a pair of collagen-packed lips, shiny new production and a catchiness worthy of today's punk-pop acts. Walsh says that's not necessarily indicative of the whole album.

"Virgin is really trying to push songs we wrote that have more hooks, but the album has a lot of songs that are really driving, aggressive and not as hook-laden as [the single] 'Here I Am,'" he says. "The Burning Brides' lead singer Dmitri came up said, 'Some of your new songs sound like Mission of Burma and some sound like Hüsker Dü.' So I don't know, but maybe we've graduated from the original punk to post-punk."

Label or no, Walsh still feels like a punk rocker, with a negative balance in his bank account and nights spent in shitty motels. "You should have seen the place we stayed in last night," he says. "I literally think it was a hideout for criminals. It was called Shady Acres Motel. It was shady, all right. And before that we were in a crappy Motel 6 and opened the phone book, and there was a crack pipe in there."

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