La Costa Perdida
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Alternative rock pioneers Camper Van Beethoven have returned with a new album, LA COSTA PERDIDA their 429 Records debut. The lineup, featuring Victor Krummenacher (bass, baritone guitar), Greg Lisher (guitars), David Lowery (guitars and vocals), Chris Pedersen (drums), Jonathan Segel (violin , guitar , mandolin, organ , backing vocals) and Michael Urbano (drums and percussion), have reunited and created their most cohesive album yet. Produced by the band, this album, their eighth studio album and first since 2004, is steeped in their connection to Northern California, specifically the areas where the band members first nurtured their musical talents Redlands, Santa Cruz and San Francisco. With a geographical jumping off point, the band fills in the dramatic, joyous, interpersonal and psychological aspects of the locales as only CVB can. The ten tracks on LA COSTA PERDIDA were recorded in the Oakland home studio of Jonathan Segel.
Says Victor Krummenacher: The coolest part was that everything flowed from the fact that these distinctive musicians and personalities sat in the living room. Our music now sounds like four people are writing it. The songs have great energy, but we re more relaxed and stately and a lot more confident. The songwriting here has elements of vintage Camper along with grown-up Camper.
I like what I hear here.. --Rolling Stone
Delightful… It does illustrate how unique this band still is, 30 years after it formed. And it truly is a kick to hear CVB ply its craft with road-tested assurance and subtly virtuosic musicianship. --Pitchfork
For 30 years and counting, Camper Van Beethoven have existed in a parallel-universe borderland, coming across like a punk band perpetually on a Balkan bluegrass bender. But they finally bring it all back home to their native California on 10th album, La Costa Perdida, recalling '60s-vintage West Coast pop filtered through their timeless, idiosyncratic prism. --Spin
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Hearing the advance release of "Northern California Girls," however, dampened my spirits. That song is over 7 minutes long here and it immediately strikes me as the worst thing I've heard from CVB. But, my fears were overcome upon playing the album (alas!).
The album starts with the mellow "Come Down the Coast," which is a really nice track, though perhaps seems out of place as an album opener for CVB. I think it's a really great David Lowery song, though.
The two high points on this album are "Someday Our Love Will Sell Us Out" and "Summer Days." "Someday..." seems to bear a strong imprint, musically, from Jonathan Segel. His violin is lovely here, and I wouldn't be surprised if he was also playing the guitar here. David's vocal fits well with the track and the song has a sort of ominous tone. It's an immediate classic, for me.
Even better is "Summer Days," which musically sounds more like Greg Lisher and Victor Krummenacher are incorporating their Monks of Doom style playing, with Jonathan Segel making another fine entry on violin. This song really rocks.
Some other comments: "Too High For the Love In" is fun. Musically, it sounds great. I get the story that the lyrics are based around, and I think lines like "flying ambulance" are just fun. Perhaps it might sound just like being absurd for the sake of being absurd, though. Still, I like it. It's fun.
The album's title track is a nice little country-ish tune, calming but with movement. "Aged in Wood" is a cool little minute, which incorporates sound effects reminiscent of Cracker's "Hi Desert Biker Meth Lab," it has cool sounds though, but it's only a quick interlude.
So, while I really hate "Northern California Girls" and find "Peaches in the Summertime" to be a throw-away track, there's definitely some nice music here and the best parts sound right up there with some of my favorite stuff from the band and its members. It's great to hear them making some new music and I hope it won't be 9 years before the next record. The songs may not have as much depth and the humor may not be as cutting as on early, classic CVB records, but there is quality to be had here. Fans of the band will likely find things to enjoy.
I think that's a pretty succinct take on this new album. It doesn't have that exuberant wackiness of their beloved early indie albums, but fragments of that sound do pop up in some of the songs. Most of the songs lean more toward the "mature alternative" sound (could that be a new genre?) that the band forged during their Virgin years. Vocally, David Lowery sounds as delightfully off-key as ever, and the instrumental prowess of the rest of the band continues to be a strength. My favorites on this new album include the hyper "Peaches in the Summertime," the blissful "Northern California Girls" and the engaging title track. Not my favorite CVB album but a long shot, but a pleasing comeback nevertheless.
I was hooked. This is world-class music played by an incredibly-versatile group of musicians.
The first time through the CD, I reminded myself of my previous experiences listening to their stuff. The second time through, I began getting into it. Third time through, hooked again. So, upon hearing this CD for the first time, you might shrug your shoulders and say, "Huh?", but give it time. You'll come around.
But first, you gotta buy the CD. I did, and even got a refund of $2.83 from my original pre-order price! Nice!
Now, if I could just get someone to make me a sandwich!