The Rave-Ups' three previous albums-1985's independently released Town + Country, along with 1987's The Book Of Your Regrets and 1990's Chance, both for Epic Records-established the group as one of the pioneers of the cowpunk genre that eventually transformed into Americana, following in the footsteps of L.A.-bred country-rock groups from The Flying Burrito Brothers and The Byrds through contemporaries like X, The Blasters, and Rank + File.
The original Los Angeles lineup-singer/songwriter Jimmer Podrasky, guitarist Terry Wilson, bassist Tommy Blatnik, and drummer Timothy Jimenez, who first met while working together in the A&M Records mailroom-have reunited for Tomorrow, set for release February 4, 2022 by Omnivore Recordings, which reissued Town + Country in 2016 with 11 bonus tracks.
When Pittsburgh native Jimmer Podrasky graduated from Carnegie-Mellon University in 1980 (where his theater classmates included Holly Hunter and Linda Kozlowski), he had already formed a version of The Rave-Ups, a rousing punk-rock band that took its cue from the emerging New York and London DIY scenes with groups like the Ramones and The Clash. When he packed up and headed for Los Angeles, he discovered kindred musical spirits in Wilson, a Springfield, Missouri native who had played with the Ozark Mountain Daredevils; Blatnik, a suburban kid from Whittier, Calif.; and Jimenez, a Burbank, Calif. native who had never been outside the state nor on a plane until he toured with the band.
The Rave-Ups' Town + Country led to major label interest and a recording deal with Epic Records, where they were signed by A&R exec Roger "Snake" Klein, best known for bringing in Indigo Girls, who brought The Rave-Ups on tour with them as an opening act. The band was introduced to the world when Molly Ringwald, a friend of Jimmer (he dated her sister Beth), had their name scratched onto a notebook in John Hughes' Sixteen Candles, then appeared as themselves in Pretty in Pink, performing "Rave-Up, Shut-Up" and "Positively Lost Me," a track that landed on Rhino's compilation Just Can't Get Enough: New Wave Hits Of The '80s. After releasing Chance in 1990, Jimmer left the Rave-Ups to raise the son after whom the album was named.
The Rave-Ups briefly reunited five years ago to play Town + Country at a record release party for that album's Omnivore reissue, but a full-fledged reunion wasn't in the cards until Jimmer and Tim hooked up at the latter's studio, where they began working on a song that turned out to be "Violets on a Hill," a country-flavored number recalling such Stones romps as "Wild Horses" and "Dead Flowers. When they were eventually joined by Terry and Tom, it was clear this was not a Jimmer solo project-like The Would-Be Plans (2013), God Like The Sun (2017), Almost Home, Again (2019) and last year's six-song Shoulder To Cry On EP with duet partner Syd Straw-but a full-on Rave-Ups revival.
"The best part of this project was when the four of us were in a room making music together," says Jimmer. "That was brilliant. I never doubted how the four of us would sound. That was the most joyous thing about making this. We didn't overintellectualize or analyze. We trusted each other musically and the finished album made it all worthwhile."
Tomorrow may have been conceived before the pandemic, but its themes touch on such hot topics as political polarization ("So, You Wanna Know the Truth?"), unrequited love ("Brigitte Bardot"), the relationship between father and son ("How Old Am I?"), fear and paranoia ("Coming After Me"), divorce ("When I Write Your Name") and the light at the end of the tunnel ("Tomorrow"). The band's country-punk bona fides are buttressed by the presence of pedal steel maestro Marty Rifkin (replacing the late "Sneaky" Pete Kleinow, who famously played on Town + Country) on "How Old Am I?" "Tomorrow" and "Coming After Me."
The first single, "How Old Am I?" was inspired by a question from Jimmer's widowed father, suffering from poor health, with a U2-styled guitar "rave-up" from Terry and a Springsteen-like fervor. Podrasky's glistening harp solo opens "Coming After Me," which echoes Eagles' "Take It Easy." Its subject is Jimmer's three-day stay in a mental institution, though it could also be interpreted as referencing the immigrant children trapped in cages at the border. As for the album-closing "Tomorrow," Jimmer, who had poetry published while still in college, admits, "That's as uplifting as I get. There's always a yin and yang to every song I write. Even the funnier ones have something that's a little edgy. Life isn't black and white. There's a lot of gray in there."
"Brigitte Bardot" is a take-your-partner Texas two-step, a tongue-in-cheek song that rhymes the beauty icon's name with "oh sh-t, oh no no," and features a wicked guitar solo by Terry. "Roll" is a tale of two star-crossed lovers whose short story narrative evokes John Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane" and Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'," while "Cry" is a blast at a former President who shall remain nameless, as Terry's slide guitar attacks the subject's lack of empathy and compassion, along with an inability to shed tears.
Terry Wilson's "The Dream of California" was originally written about Jimmer's son Chance wanting to return home but transformed into a combination Mississippi Delta and Mumbai raga thanks to his 12-string acoustic guitar played with a capo. Wilson's finger-picked, arpeggiated nylon string guitar lends a poignant quality to "She And He," about how one can be in a relationship and feel alone at the same time. "When I Write Your Name" is another older song, Jimmer's typically sardonic ode to having to send a child support check every month to his ex, with a bluesy, pneumatic guitar solo sealing the deal.
"The Rave-Ups made a record that's really good and sounds like us," says Jimmer about Tomorrow, deferring about whether the band will be playing any shows. "The proof is in the pudding."
And ready to be tasted.