To call Camper Van Beethoven eccentric is kinda like saying there’s a bit of dysfunction in Washington; it’s not a matter of whether or not it’s true, but rather a matter of degree. After all, this is the same bunch that recorded such classics as “Take the Skinheads Bowling,” “Joe Stalin’s Cadillac” and a note for note reproduction of Fleetwood Mac’s Tusk, the latter undertaken merely as a lark.
Nevertheless, after morphing into any number of offshoots — Cracker, the Monks of Doom, et. al. — it’s good to have them back, fully revived with the band’s original line-up. After all, it’s been more than eight years since their last opus, New Roman Times, and fans might be forgiven for figuring they were through. Fortunately, the band that helped establish the early indie ethos remains as odd and unrepentant as ever, evidenced by the way they veer from the slightly schizoid, decidedly Lennon-esque wail of “You Got to Roll” to the laconic Beach Boys-like balladry of “Northern California Girls,” with various bits of prancing, plucking and plodding nestled neatly in-between. The title track is the weirdest entry of all, an unlikely narrative about a murderer on the run who takes refuge south of the border. Melodies may be lilting, as on “Summer Days” or edgy, as with “Someday Our Love Will Sell Us Out,” but it all works well. When the Campers get cranking, they’re a wonder to behold.
DOWNLOAD: “Las Costa Perdida,” “Northern California Girls” —LEE ZIMMERMAN