Please forgive me; I'm going to be wearing my Music Reviewer's hat for the following several paragraphs:
I was a teenager when I first heard the band Camper Van Beethoven
, some 16 or 17 years ago. (Man, I can't believe I'm that old
.) I won't tell you where I got that first CVB cassette - I'm ashamed at how I obtained that particular recording, and perhaps I'll confess the method in a future story or commentary - but I recall schooldays spent adrift on Camper tunes, salvation for a teen full of angst. Their sweet brew was the perfect blend of rock and country and alternative and punk and violin and experimentation and silliness and intelligence and irony and wit and sorrow and sex; the trials of teenhood were rarely accompanied by a more eclectically (un?)suitable soundtrack, dangerously original-sounding fuel for a young mind already bored by Corporate Rock...
Okay, I've lost you already. You've read hundreds of Eighties Music reviews like this, and they all read the same. They all wax nostalgic on how great the music was during that decade, how X band changed the reviewer's life and how much they wish music could be like the (80s) Old Days. Isn't that how these period pieces go?
Sorry to say, I'm not prepared to tell you much different. Camper Van Beethoven was
a great band, and they certainly helped shape my life to some extent. I mean, that's been the case with all the music that I've spent a considerable amount of time listening to over my lifetime. Yet I will say one
thing differently; I don't wish music could be like the 80's Old Days, because I love these New Roman Times.
Huh? What's that I say? What I mean to say is, as much as I still enjoy The Music I Came Of Age To, the music that's being produced these days delights me just as much. Especially the music coming from independent artists...
...such as Camper Van Beethoven! Because Camper is back
- they left for awhile and became Monks of Doom and Cracker for a time, then were silent for a few years. Then, all of a sudden, they came back
. All the original members of the band came back for a reunion tour, and then they decided to make a new album, and not your Typical Reunion Album - they made a real
record, remained a real
band, and continued touring, for real
. And their new record sounds new, but also 80's-old - they seem to have picked up right from where they left off. Do you understand what I'm saying? It's like they never left
. Except they did, but then they came back, bringing the best of the 80's with them.
Back in the 80's, theirs was a sound far
from the typical teen fare you'd find on the radio during the mid-to-late 80's (unless you were listening to Rodney on the ROQ late on a Sunday night). To this day, I don't quite know how to describe Camper Van Beethoven's sound without feeling I've done them injustice; just mentioning "Take the Skinheads Bowling", perhaps their most well-known song, misrepresents the entirety of their sound. Still, I'll make an attempt.
CVB's sound was some kind of hybrid of Alternative, Indie Rock, and that category of the Billboard charts labeled College
- and yet, they were so much more than that. By definition, the College category is used to describe music that is difficult to categorize elsewhere: music that is not always heard on commercial radio but which might be found playing in college dormrooms. In that respect, CVB may have fit the College bill, for theirs was a highly unorthodox mix. Yet they didn't sound anything like REM or other punk-flavored rock bands you'd typically find on the College charts (and campuses) during the 80's. Camper Van Beethoven was country punk from Northern California. Yet they weren't
country and they weren't
punk - they were rock, alternatively so, and with folk flavorings. They had a violinist, and they experimented with Pink Floyd and - as we've recently discovered - Fleetwood Mac covers. Their lyrics were more poetic than most. You could headbang and mosh and skank to their music. You could imagine them playing with the Circle Jerks or at a square dance.
Look, I'm not a music reviewer, and I'm not going to pretend to be one any longer. You've just got to listen to CVB yourself
. I'm too tired to continue with this review, even though it's still early in the afternoon. I simply find it too exhausting, and perhaps impossible, to come up with ways to describe the sound of this band - this band that I've spent many cherished days of my life listening to. Loudly. Alcohol coursing through my blood. Thinking to myself, "This has got to be the best band in the world." Helplessly singing aloud. And though I'm sober most of the time these days, listening to Camper Van Beethoven still rocks my socks off and sends chills down my spine. And gives me the urge to textmail song lyrics to other Camper listeners. (By the way, Dave, that gum you like is back in style
.) I don't know how else to say it: you've just got to listen
. So please, do me a favor and buy Camper Van Beethoven's new album, New Roman Times
, and then send me a copy. I'm unemployed and can't afford to buy CDs, but I've got to hear the rest of this album before I catch them on tour
. (Don't ask me how I'm going to get into their show; I'll figure something out...)