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Saturday, 2 October 2010

Camper Van Beethoven - 'Camper Van Beethoven Is Dead. Long Live Camper Van Beethoven' (Pitch-A-Tent)

It was a shock to hear about this CD, in 2002, when I didn't expect to ever hear another peep from Camper Van Beethoven. But since then, they've become a semi-active band again, although one that has only released fairly experimental new work and mostly plays the classics in concert (I've seen 'em twice and they were awesome both times). Camper Van Beethoven Is Dead, Long Live Camper Van Beethoven is a second odds-and-ends compilation, but not a "normal" one like Vantiquities - it's built upon old material from concert recordings and demos, overdubbed with state-of-the-art 2002 recording techniques. This approach is pretty obvious, particularly as they tried a bit too hard to make things flow. So, the very raw live recording of 'L'Aguardiente' (a nice Balkan stomper) blends into the very studio-based 'Tom Flower's 1500 Valves' with some audience noise to mask the transition, but it's blatant smoke and mirrors. So yeah, this feels pretty incomplete (by definition), with a few old fan-faves like 'SP37957' and 'Balalaika Gap' thrown as bones. The musique concrete experimentation, like the opening track whose name is too long to bother retyping, isn't half-bad -- the opener in particular could be a Morton Subotnick outtake, but it's worthwhile as a bit of outsider electronic experimentation (which I'm sure no one treated it as). If you want to hear new unearthed Camper Van Beethoven vocal-based songs, well, there's a few, though the only really great one is 'Klondike' -- 'Tom Flower's' is a bit lackluster and 'We're All Wasted and We're Wasting All Your Time' is merely 'Shut Us Down' crossed with 'No More Bullshit' crossed with 'The Ambiguity Song' crossed with 'Life is Grand' (and you can guess where it's sequenced). The orchestral 'All Her Favorite Fruit' is expectedly grandiose, but maybe a tad out of place here (but where else would they put it, right?) -- and I prefer the original anyway, because you don't need an orchestra to carry the gravitas. Also notable is another cover of 'Who Are the Brain Police?' (the first one being by CVB offshoot Monks of Doom, though this one has a lot more pizazz). The long composited medley of different live versions of 'SP37957' (I'm assuming from the Key Lime Pie tour, but maybe we're hearing Fichter and Segel together thanks to digital editing) actually has some visionary (in inauthentic) improvisational sections, and it might be my pick of this disc. So what I'm holding is maybe the least essential CD ever, but if it enabled this band to get back together, I'm all for it.

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