The Rave-Ups: Town + Country (Omnivore Recordings)

The Rave-Ups
Town + Country
Omnivore Recordings

The Rave-Ups is possibly the best college rock band you never heard, but if you were a kid of the 1980s, then there’s a very good chance that you have heard The Rave-Ups, thanks to their appearance in one of the most popular teen movies of that era, John Hughes’ delightful comedy, Sixteen Candles. Their appearance—due in part to frontman Jimmer Podrasky dating Molly Ringwald’s sister—would be at a pivotal moment in the film, and their song, “Positively Lost Me,” would be the great hit single that got away, thanks to the lack of a proper soundtrack album.  But it’s easy to see the appeal of the song; it’s a kiss-off, break-up song, performed in a sleek, somewhat European style reminiscent of The Alarm, U2, and Big Country.

And therein lies the problem. “Positively Lost Me,” as fun as it is, doesn’t serve justice to the rest of Town + Country, the band’s debut album. Outside of “Better World,” “Radio,” and “Class Tramp,” which fit in nicely with the R.E.M. school of college rock, it’s easy to understand how listening audiences might have been shocked by what they heard, as the rest of Town + Country is straight up roots rock, quite different in style than those other numbers, almost to the point of sounding like a completely different band. This dichotomy exists in part because of the scattershot way the album was made; recorded in fits and starts over a period of years.

That doesn’t mean the tracks are inferior. By no means, the rest of Town + Country is fine roots-rock; the fast-driving, Beach Boys-referencing “In My Gremlin” is catchy as hell, while “Remember (Newman’s Lovesong)” and “By The Way” are fun hoedowns, rooted in Americana and drenched in Southern rock that reminds of the better moments of early Drivin’ ’N’ Cryin’. The ten bonus tracks mostly follow in this formula; a live version of “Positively Lost Me” shows that in performance, the song would lose its studio polish and fall more in line with the roots-rock style of its fellow album tracks.

Town + Country is very much a debut album, one that shows great promise, though with a slight bit of confusion as to the band’s identity. Though the dichotomy is quite obvious here, it doesn’t lessen the quality of either set of songs. The Rave-Ups would go on to make two more albums and would have a minor hit with “(Respectfully) King Of Rain,” before calling it a day in 1992. Since then, they’ve held numerous reunions, including one that produced an unreleased album, The Salmon In The Woods. But Town + Country is a solid, exciting debut album, one that remains a hidden jewel from the era, and one that deserves a second listen.

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