Camper Van Beethoven


Throw a dart at a map of the world, and chances are Camper Van Beethoven cut a tune that kinda sounds like it came from there—even if all you hit is water. On 1985’s Telephone Free Landslide Victory and other early, funny records, surf, ska, psychedelia, polka, Middle Eastern drones, Balkan dance numbers, and listing country-rock were plastered together with lazy Left Coast Gemütlichkeit. Four years later, the magisterial, (mostly) serious, and surprisingly coherent and impassioned Key Lime Pie took on foes from Jack Ruby to the American Legion to Ronald Reagan. Then the band split, with David Lowery later forming Cracker and most of the rest of the players going over to Monks of Doom. Last Friday, an intermittently rousing Cracker/CVB hybrid hit the 9:30 Club, and last winter, Lowery got together with bassist Victor Krummenacher and violinist/guitarist/MVP Jonathan Segel to assemble live and unreleased CVB tracks into a remix record of sorts (but not the clubby kind). There’s a sedate demo of “Balalaika Gap” and an “orchestral version” of “All Her Favorite Fruit,” whose lyric explodes from intimate still life into anguished colonialist reverie without ever losing its way. Frank Zappa is added to CVB’s cover roster, which already ranged from Black Flag and Sonic Youth to Status Quo and Pink Floyd. But even though the disc is aimed at the dedicated fan, it is burdened with too many formless sound collages and predictably quirky instrumentals to inspire all but the most rabid enthusiasts to get up off the couch and over to the computer to order it. —Glenn Dixon