Camper Van Beethoven
Live from Fargo, ND
amper Van Beethoven do not, apparently, intend to waste a moment of the resurgent "popularity" (a relative term, to say the least) which accompanies most reunions. They know all too well that fame is fleeting. Twenty years ago (!), "Take the Skinheads Bowling" was the toast of college radio, and they parlayed that moment in the spotlight into what? A few years of cult obscurity? The lesson: cash in quick, while people still care.
Which is why, following the release of last year's surprisingly inspired New Roman Times, the band's first album of new material in fifteen years, they have chosen to release, thus far, either two or three live albums of recent performances (depending on how you count the online-only mini-album 7 Hillbilly Punk Ska Classics). This latest one was recorded just a couple of weeks ago, leading me to believe that either (a) the band felt that the performance was so good it just had to be released, or (b) they plan to put out a bunch of these instant live albums over the course of this summer's tour, this being the first of, eventually, several.
Probably the latter. Hopefully. I mean, as far as I'm concerned: more Camper? Bully. Bring it on. If they want to release every show they play, I'll probably listen to all of them, and purchase more than a few.
But being a loyal completist doesn't serve you very well, my good reader, now does it? You're saying to yourself, yeah, never mind how much you love them; the show: is it any good? Not really, no. Putting aside the inherent joy I derive from the experience of simply listening to Camper allows me to hear this fairly lackluster performance for what it is.
The most notable sonic characteristic on the recording is Lowery's voice, which sounds a bit ragged, and probably could have used a night or two off before recording a show for release. It works to a nice effect on the second half of "All Her Favorite Fruit," but for the most part it detracts from the performance. The band sound equally tired. Apart from a rambunctious tear through "Shut Us Down" and a particularly enthusiastic rendition of the Clash's "White Riot," the energy on stage is pretty low. The band plod through the set in a fairly pedestrian manner, with little of the giddy enthusiasm that carries the aforementioned 7...Classics.
On the plus side, the set list is a well-chosen mix that alternates between new material and pre-break-up favourites. If nothing else, this release shows how seamlessly the new songs fit into the larger Camper catalogue. Which makes me look forward to more like it over the course of the summer. Hopefully they'll capture a better performance next time around.
Reviewed by: Bjorn Randolph
Reviewed on: 2005-06-29