Hurple Hoopla

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Camper Van Beethoven: New Roman Times

Pre-Cracker there was Camper Van Beethoven. After a 15-year layoff, seeing the formation and dissolution of David Lowry's other musical vehicle, Cracker, the rebellious and decidedly weird spirit of the northern California band has been successfully resurrected. Lowery has said in interviews that the band simply chose to ignore the passage of time since 1989 and makes no attempt to sound like a "modern version of themselves." Of course, "Modern" is a relative term to a band like Camper Van Beethoven who mix modern rock styles and instruments with pre-rock "western" styles and toss in plenty of "eastern" musical seasoning to turn the whole thing into a timeless mish-mash of style and substance. While the album is not as overall as avant-garde as earlier Camper Van Beethoven releases - most songs from this collection would not sound out of place on any given modern rock station - it retains Lowry's singular intellectual and musical bent.

That said, New Roman Times is both their most modern-sounding recording and their grand return to form. In fact, this strange rock opera on the subject of creeping neo-conservativism, religious whackos, and red vs. blue states may just be Camper Van Beethoven's best album ever. From the sweeping anti-war anthem "Might Makes Right" to the fun of "Hippy Chick" it's Lowry's most focused musical and lyrical collection, so far. This collection aims for the heart of the main concerns for thirty-somethings who came of age in Reagan's America, and, more often than not, hits the bullseye.

Even now, a year after its release I find this album slipping into my CD player quite often, certainly more often than most other releases from 2004.

I think Tony the Tiger can best sum up my thoughts on this 2004 Camper Van Beethoven release:


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