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Camper Van Beethoven - Popular Songs Of Great Enduring Strength And Beauty

Camper Van Beethoven, Popular Songs

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

CAMPER Van Beethoven’s Popular Songs Of Great Enduring Strength & Beauty is a greatest hits compilation of sorts… or rather, it’s an update, a reminder, a maturing of classic sounds, and a re-recording that sticks two fingers up to the establishment.

It’s a collection of the band’s finest, most enduring, strongest and most potent phonological loops, all put together the hard way. And for anyone that doesn’t know, CVB are an American alternative rock group that enjoyed a cult following on the underground music scene of the ’80s thanks to their genre-defying mix of pop, ska, world music, punk rock, folk, country, and acid rock.

Reformed and re-invigorated, they decided to enjoy their rennaisance by assembling 18 tracks, five of which have been re-recorded specifically for this release.

Or, as CVB spokesperson, Col. Jack “Cheese” Sandwich (ret.) of Limone sul Garda, Italy explains: “We endeavoured to present an enticing set of popular songs from the much-acclaimed “secondary and tertiary recording periods” of the band, 1985-1990.

“We were, however, thwarted in this effort by a certain recording company which had released the later (tertiary) output of these original recordings. We made offers to buy back our own catalog, but they were rebuffed. Hence, still owning the publishing rights, we decided to re-record a few of these later songs.

“We have attempted to remake them to so closely resemble the original recordings as to be essentially exact forgeries, but keen ears may be able to sense an underlying maturity that the originals might have lacked. We apologize for that, but it couldn’t be helped.”

Anyone who missed out first time is sure to have a blast on this occasion. The songs combine elements of Californian sunshine rock with psychedelia, country, punk rock, acid rock and ska that all add up to an appetising whole.

Standouts include The Day That Lassie Went To The Moon, with its hang-dog vocals and enticing mix of “yeah, yeah” vocals, lazy guitars and loopy organs that sounds like The Pixies on dope; the shimmering California sunshine rock of Take The Skinheads Bowling; and the out-and-out classic that is Pictures of Matchstick Men, which has been re-recorded and sounds sharper than ever. It’s one to excite the senses and demands repeat listening, played very loud (it’s actually a cover version of a Status Quo song, but we won’t hold that against them!).

We also dug the wimsical charm of ZZ Top Goes To Egypt (a three-minute instrumental of surfing-style guitars), the Western-influenced Sad Lovers’ Waltz (and we’re talking fiddler-style American Old West country), and the Ziggy Stardust-like All Her Favourite Fruit.

Evidence of their musical diversity is also evident on the rousing Circles, which finds some Indian sitar weaving its way beautifully around some of the rock out moments and is obviously a source of inspiration for the more contemporary likes of Oasis and Kula Shaker.

While there’s a sheer feel-good alt-rock sensibility surrounding efforts such as the Tom Petty-ish Shut Us Down, the breezy Amibuity Song and ’80s pop hits Good Guys And Bad Guys and One Of These Days.

Some of the ska-influenced stuff didn’t get me quite so excited, but on the whole this is an excellent reminder of what a terrific band Camper Van Beethoven could be. We’d advise you to hitch a musical ride.

Download picks: Pictures of Matchstick Men, The Day Lassie Went To The Moon, Sad Lovers’ Waltz, Circles, Shut Us Down, All Her Favourite Fruit, Take the Skinheads Bowling

Track listing:

  1. The Day Lassie Went To The Moon
  2. Border Ska
  3. Take the Skinheads Bowling
  4. Pictures of Matchstick Men (re recording)
  5. Skinhead Stomp
  6. Opie Rides Again/Club Med Sucks
  7. Eye of Fatima parts 1&2 (re recording)
  8. ZZ Top Goes to Egypt
  9. Sad Lovers’ Waltz
  10. When I Win the Lottery (re recording)
  11. The History of Utah
  12. Seven Languages
  13. All Her Favorite Fruit (re recording)
  14. Good Guys and Bad Guys
  15. Circles
  16. One of These Days (re recording)
  17. Ambiguity Song
  18. Shut Us Down