BY FRED MILLS
It was sometime in ’85 when L.A.’s Rave-Ups hit the regional airwaves and, for a spell, the national MTV screen via infectious, twangy, power-pop nugget “Positively Lost Me.” Plucked from the quartet’s debut LP Town + Country (released by indie label Fun Stuff), the tune landed the Rave-Ups in the then-booming college rock catbird seat—and as we all know, American college rock, at the time spearheaded by R.E.M., held out enormous potential at the hands of the Dream Syndicate, The dB’s, Rank & File, Guadalcanal Diary, Zeitgeist and others. The Rave-Ups soon scored a deal with Epic Records and almost took it to the bank with their subsequent platters The Book Of Your Regrets and Chance, but sadly Epic couldn’t quite master the marketing plan needed to break a band that straddled both the roots-rock and pop-punk camps and, as such, was hard to pigeonhole.
Time marched on. So here we are nearly three decades later and Rave-Ups frontman Jimmer Podrasky has, out of the blue, mounted a comeback after years of silence. The album is called The Would-Be Plans and he initially offered it late last year as a mail-order only CD; it’s now become more widely available digitally. (There is a positively amazing story over at the Huffington Post about the circumstances surrounding Podrasky and his improbable return from the twilight zone; it involves Molly Ringwald, violent drug gangs, a brief but terrifying stint in the county loony bin, the power of childhood friendships, and even Bruce Springsteen’s pedal steel player. With a special cameo from the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. You gotta read it to believe it.)
The album’s a beaut. In a very real sense, The Would-Be Plans picks up where the Rave-Ups left off, the archetypal he-walked-out-the-door-and-just-walked-back-in affair. It’s bursting at the seams with Podrasky’s signature off-handed, partially-drawled vocals, pure-pop melodies and warm Americana-tilting arrangements. Hell, the first couple of songs, “The Far Left Side Of You” and “Empty,” could’ve originally appeared on Town +Country and no one would question their lineage, and several other tunes firmly signpost Podrasky’s allegiance to his roots (no pun intended). At the same time, you get the impression that Podrasky is aiming to stake out turf well beyond the L.A. scene’s nostalgia/reunion circuit. The title track itself is a slow-burn, bloozy manifesto of Springsteen/Petty proportions, visceral and vital, at times self-accusatory and clearly world-weary (“How could it be I’m so young yet so much older than I should be,” he sings, then repeats it a few lines later, as a female backing chorus underlines the accusation). Podrasky subsequently recovers quickly, delivering the celebratory, strummy, and yes, power-poppy “She Has Good Records” (sketch out the tracklist of a mixtape while listening to this in the background); the pedal steel-infused country-rocker “Molotov Moon” (hello Gram, Lucinda and Alejandro!); Latin-inflected ballad “With This Ring”; and closing track “Fall,” which lets the tension build for nearly half the track before exploding into a veritable guitar/piano/strings/harmony vocals rave-up that you gotta hear to believe.
In short, The Would-Be Plans is one of the most unexpected releases of the recent past, yes, but it’s also one of the best ones that’s turned up. It can be ordered over at his official website. Make your plans now.
DOWNLOAD: “Fall,” “The Far Left Side Of You,” “The Would-Be Plans”