Camper Van Beethoven’s delightfully irreverent and musically scatterbrained 1985 debut, Telephone Free Landslide Victory, played like a Dear Abby column for the “Why so serious?” faction of the ‘80s indie scene. Lose track of your friend Bill? They had theories. Got a lawn full of skinheads? Grab your bowling shoes. Nearly 30 years later, not all that much has changed. On La Costa Perdida (The Lost Coast), their first album in eight years, CVB explore their old California stomping grounds and stumble upon a perfect mix of middle-aged nostalgia and youthful yee-haw.
All the uniquely Camper elements find their way onto La Costa Perdida. Standout rocker “Too High for the Love-in” – a tale of mystery kitchen birds and vipers in Sweden – blends pop melody and absurdity with a straight face and marches out on frontman David Lowery’s command, “Bring to me the anti-venom / And make me a sandwich.” Jonathan Segel’s trademark violin pierces through swashes of guitar and percussion on the hypnotic “Someday Our Love Will Sell Us Out” and duets with Lowery’s vocals on several cuts.
The band rip through “Peaches in the Summertime” – the album’s lone pulse-raiser – revisiting their classic countrified ska-punk style. And for those who still like a little message in their music, Lowery may just have a nugget of wisdom or two left in him. “Know who you are deep in your heart / Before you step into the nebulae,” he offers on gentle, ocean-side closer “A Love for All Time”. It beats a fortune cookie any day.
“So strike up the band / Cuz it’s a love, a love for all time,” sings Lowery in the final moments of La Costa Perdida, a sentiment with which listeners will undoubtedly agree. Bill has likely been found by now, and the skinheads probably long ago let their hair grow out, but three decades on, Camper Van Beethoven still remain easy to love.
Essential Tracks: “Too High for the Love-in”, “A Love for All Time”