Before listening to this CD, the only track from CVB that I could say I was familiar with was â€œPictures of Matchstick Menâ€, 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 â€œNew Roman Timesâ€, exemplified early by â€œ51-7â€, 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 â€œRough and Tumbleâ€, the track is diametrically opposed to everything that â€œ51-7â€- where â€œ51-7â€ was smooth and flowed well in all aspects, â€œWhite Fluffy Cloudsâ€ is much more stop-start, clunky and unformed. Immediately recalling Lucero and Uncle Tupelo with the slide guitar and laid-back percussion on â€œThat Gum You Like Is Back In Styleâ€, Camper Van Beethoven gradually moves more into the direction of Pink Floyd and The Outlaws, drawing listeners into a style that they wouldnâ€™t necessarily like but in a way to bring converts.
The bizarre dance-melody of â€œMight Makes Rightâ€ recalls â€œOne Headlightâ€ by The Wallflowers, whether it be through the tempo or Jakob Dylan-esque vocals of David. Where â€œMilitia Songâ€ 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 â€œRâ€™Nâ€™R Uzbekistanâ€. Moving back to the middle of the road alternative rock for â€œLong Plastic Hallwayâ€, 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 donâ€™t contribute much to â€œNew Roman Timesâ€ 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 â€œI Am Talking To This Flowerâ€, 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 â€“ for a band that has been out of commission for so long, they really put out a convincing album . Hereâ€™s to a long reunion for this band.
Top Tracks :That Gum You Like Is Back In Style, Might Makes Right
Camper Van Beethoven â€“ New Roman Times / 2004 Vanguard Records / 20 Tracks / http://www.campervanbeethoven.com / http://www.vanguardrecords.com / Reviewed 25 October 2004