The man in question is Jimmer Podrasky, the Carnegie Mellon grad and Pittsburgh kid who came west to form the Rave-Ups, precursors of the No Depression/ Americana wave of neo-roots bands, releasing two critically acclaimed albums on Epic Records, 1988’s The Book of Your Regrets and 1990’s Chance, before vanishing. The band made their way into pop culture lore by having their name inscribed on Molly Ringwald’s notebook in Sixteen Candles (Jimmer had a child with her sister) and appearing as the house band for several key scenes in Pretty in Pink. Jimmer took some time off to raise that son, Chance, and now, 23 years later, he’s launched his solo career with an album that finds his bruised, lovelorn persona remaining intact, none the worse for wear. With Mitch Marine producing and playing drums, Podrasky is also accompanied by multi-instrumentalists Brian Whelan and Ted Russell Kamp alongside a group of talented sidekicks like Rami Jaffe on keyboards and pedal steel guitarist Marty Rifkin.
The opener, “Far Left Side of You,” defines the void with succinct perfection: “”I used to sleep upon/The wrong side of my life/Now that you are gone/The other side is mine,” its ’60s-style wordless “bop-ba-ba-bop-ba-bas” forming the perfect melodic bromide to that spiritual ache. “I feel as empty as a gun/When the shooting spree is done,” he laments in “Empty,” and you can literally feel Jimmer’s angst, though even that is washed away by the sweet, playful country strains of “Big Ball o’ String” and the Neil Young plaints of the title track: “I’m so young and so much older than I should be,” he paraphrases Dylan, with a female choir providing some gospel-flavored solace. “She likes to hear a tune with a poppy groove,” he sings in “(She Has) Good Records,” and offers precisely that with a tribute to someone’s good taste in music. The autobiographical “Satellite” details his own “story from start to end,” with a clear-eyed tale of regret and subsequent self-destruction: “I had a dream and a family/Of love and loss I know a lot/Mom and Dad have gone away/And there isn’t a bongload big enough.” The slow country blues of “Molotov Moon” admits, “Well, there isn’t an answer/So don’t question why,” while “Just What You Don’t” poses the sardonic question, “Why do I reap just what you sow?” The south-of-the-border acoustic feel of “With This Ring” offers a bittersweet view of a failed relationship, with lines like “Someone better steal my TV/I can’t even watch it anymore.” The closing “Fall” describes a new relationship that “was over before it started,” with a girl “sweeter than a Milky Way” but “younger than my car.”
Still, for all that melancholy, Jimmer leaves the door a crack open to the possibility he can, and most likely will, fall in love again. It’s too bad it took him 23 years to rediscover a passion for what he does best, but luckily for us, he’s done just that here.