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CD REVIEW: Camper Van Beethoven New Roman Times


The best career move ever made by the members of the 1980s indie outfit Camper Van Beethoven was to disband in 1989. Since then, their fame has swelled exponentially in the influence-obsessed world of alternative rock, resulting in scads of compilations, bootleg releases and "from the vaults" recordings. Now, finally, all the members who made the 1985 absurdist folk breakthrough Telephone Free Landslide Victory feel the world is ready for their message again by way of an immense rock opera titled New Roman Times. Like most albums in the "song-cycle" genre, New Roman Times is 20 minutes and three instrumental interludes longer than the attention span of an average listener and could probably benefit from the intervention of a good editor. But CVB's long-windedness is more encouraging than boring--it means they still desire to grow and expand and aren't merely a tired "greatest hits revisited" exhibition. The country, world music and noisy post-punk guitar of early CVB are alive and well on New Roman Times, even if the lyrical satire spewed by frontman David Lowery has lost some of its subtlety in the interim. Little fanfare has preceded this ambitious self-released album, but it should present many pleasant surprises for old fans and newcomers alike.

--Nicholas Collias