At the time they were being touted as the next big thing to erupt from the LA club scene, the Rave-Ups were working in the mailroom and warehouse of A&M Records. Although launched by singer/guitarist Jimmer Podrasky in Pittsburgh, the group on the 1984 EP was a quartet he assembled in California. Class Tramp is a mighty impressive debut: a hook-laden six-song rocking pop collection that reveals Podrasky as an inventive, commercially minded songwriter with a wealth of ideas and a fresh lyrical perspective. Richly multi-tracked guitars, crisp rhythms and easy-to-like vocals buttress original tunes that deftly sidestep power pop and other pigeonholes.
Podrasky and drummer Timothy Jimenez acquired a new bassist and guitarist before recording the refined and ruralized Town + Country, a good (not great) record that gives away some of the EP’s ’60sish pluck to take an energetic crack at unstylized Southwestern twang and winds up sounding a shade or two less distinguished than before. Pedal-steel master Sneaky Pete Kleinow plays on two tracks. The record still manages a fair amount of variety: “Remember (Newman’s Lovesong)” is almost a bluegrass breakdown done as a rock song, while “Positively Lost Me” (one of two songs the band performed on camera for Pretty in Pink; A&M graciously left the tunes off the soundtrack LP) tells of a broken relationship with only a mild country touch. The lighthearted Beach Boys car-song parody of “In My Gremlin” harks back to Class Tramp; Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” becomes an uptempo rocker.
The Rave-Ups had legal problems getting off Fun Stuff and couldn’t find the record industry’s on-ramp for a long while. Three years passed before Epic issued The Book of Your Regrets, a downcast but determined effort. Guitarist Terry Wilson takes a more prominent role here, co-writing most of the material with Podrasky and expanding his instrumental contribution to include mandolin, keyboards and harmonica. While retaining a glimmer of the previous LP’s country inflection, this well-produced (by David Leonard) record leans towards the textured, harmony-laden West Coast sound of Translator, Peter Case and Wire Train. Consistently invigorating and remarkably original, The Book of Your Regrets signals the Rave-Ups’ unyielding vitality and creative resources.
The uneven Chance (named after Podrasky’s infant son, whose photograph appears on the album cover) repaints the previous album’s strong western folk-rock sound with a mild ’60s psychedelic overcoat and a more optimistic view of life. Despite occasional clunkiness in the writing and performances, Chance has the surging “She Says (Come Around),” the Televisionesque “Hamlet Meets John Doe,” the rip-snorting “The Best I Can’t” and a few other songs with equally oblique titles to recommend it.