The Rave-Ups: Town + Country

RaveUps_TownAndCountryOverdue reissue of country-punk-rock ‘n’ roll shoulda-beens

Originally from Pittsburgh, this hyphenate country-punk-rock ‘n’ roll band regrouped and restaffed a few times before making their mark in the clubs of Los Angeles. This 1985 full-length debut was a college radio hit, and led to a high profile appearance in the film Pretty in Pink (but not, alas, on the soundtrack album), and a deal with Epic. Their major label debut, The Book of Your Regrets, failed to capitalize on the band’s momentum, and after an uptick with their third album, Chance, the band was dropped, and broke up a few month later. But not before providing TV’s David Silver the soundtrack for his contest-winning dance moves on the Spring Dance episode of Beverly Hills 90210.

The band’s Epic albums were previously reissued as a two-fer, but their debut EP and album for the Fun Stuff label have remained maddeningly out of print. Until now. The vault door has finally swung wide open, providing not only the album’s original ten tracks, but eleven bonuses that include live radio performances and material produced by Steve Berlin and Mark Linett for a scrapped second album. Over 78 minutes of vintage Rave Ups that sounds as vital today as it did thirty (30!) years ago. Stephen Barncard’s production has none of the big studio sounds that have prematurely aged so many mid-80s records, and the band’s timeless rock ‘n’ roll foundation was cannily woven with potent threads of country, punk and blues.

“Positively Lost Me” opens the album with a memorable rhythm guitar lick and the boastful kiss-off “you lost a lot when you lost me.” The bravado appears to crack as the forfeiture is inventoried in a pedestrian list of ephemera (“six paperback books and a dying tree”), but it’s a setup, as the real price is lost confidence and broken trust. Singer-songwriter Jimmer Podrasky was full of great lyrics and catchy vocal hooks, and the band stretched themselves to find deep pockets for his songs. There’s a punk rock edge to the square-dance call “Remember (Newman’s Lovesong)” and the Beach Boys pastiche “In My Gremlin,” and an improbable demo of “If I Had a Hammer” is cannily wed to a La Bamba beat.

The Dylanish “Class Tramp” (which is about breeding rather than schooling) is complemented by a cover of Dylan’s “You Ain’t Going Nowhere,” and the album closes on a rockabilly note with “Rave-Up/Shut-Up.” The bonuses include radio performances of “Positively Lost Me” and Merle Travis’ rewrite of Charlie Bowman’s “Nine Pound Hammer,” early versions of songs that turned up as B-sides and later LPs, and several titles that never turned up again. There’s some excellent material here, but the album, recorded in stolen moments in A&M’s studios, is the fully polished gem. The Rave-Ups deserved more success than fickle industry winds blew their way, but at least Omnivore’s reissue blows this terrific debut back into print. [©2016 Hyperbolium]

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