Camper Van Beethoven – New Roman Times (CD)

Before listening to this CD, the only track from CVB that I could say I was familiar with was “Pictures of Matchstick Men”, and while their last CD came out in 1989, I still feel as if I should have been better versed in the band. The tight style of the alternative rock that CVB places on “New Roman Times”, exemplified early by “51-7”, a track that ties together introspective guitar lines, a violin, and a sugary set of vocals. Moving onto the rough and tumble guitar licks of “Rough and Tumble”, the track is diametrically opposed to everything that “51-7”- where “51-7” was smooth and flowed well in all aspects, “White Fluffy Clouds” is much more stop-start, clunky and unformed. Immediately recalling Lucero and Uncle Tupelo with the slide guitar and laid-back percussion on “That Gum You Like Is Back In Style”, Camper Van Beethoven gradually moves more into the direction of Pink Floyd and The Outlaws, drawing listeners into a style that they wouldn’t necessarily like but in a way to bring converts.

The bizarre dance-melody of “Might Makes Right” recalls “One Headlight” by The Wallflowers, whether it be through the tempo or Jakob Dylan-esque vocals of David. Where “Militia Song” threatens to strike out with a slow and off-beat melody, the tautness of CVB in bringing it into a very Appalachian influenced ho-down style. In somewhat the same vein, but infusing it with a more Russian/Eastern violin arrangement, CVB contribute to a sense of community with “R’N’R Uzbekistan”. Moving back to the middle of the road alternative rock for “Long Plastic Hallway”, CVB show that they can go 20 different ways on a disc and be able to achieve the vast majority of goals they have strived for.

Even though there are a number of in-between tracks that don’t contribute much to “New Roman Times” as a whole, Camper Van Beethoven has crafted an album that is head and shoulders over what passes for alternative music in this day and age. With a track like “I Am Talking To This Flower”, the strong bass lines of Victor come into play as much as any other piece of the band, creating a full sound that only is achieved a few times during the disc. Fresh, sharp, and on their game – for a band that has been out of commission for so long, they really put out a convincing album . Here’s to a long reunion for this band.

Top Tracks :That Gum You Like Is Back In Style, Might Makes Right

Rating: 6.6/10

Camper Van Beethoven – New Roman Times / 2004 Vanguard Records / 20 Tracks / http://www.campervanbeethoven.com / http://www.vanguardrecords.com / Reviewed 25 October 2004

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