New Roman Times

New Roman Times

by Camper Van Beethoven
     
 

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These '80s college-rock icons went in some radically different directions when they split a decade and a half back, with members going on to form the cracked-country combo Cracker and the neo-prog aggregation the Monks of Doom. Since they never cut the lines of communication completely, it's not altogether surprising to see Camper reunite here…  See more details below

Overview

These '80s college-rock icons went in some radically different directions when they split a decade and a half back, with members going on to form the cracked-country combo Cracker and the neo-prog aggregation the Monks of Doom. Since they never cut the lines of communication completely, it's not altogether surprising to see Camper reunite here; the degree to which they've been able to pick up where they left off, however, is pretty fascinating. Much as they did in their initial incarnation, the band incorporate all manner of unlikely ingredients into their sonic stew, from acrid psychedelic tang ("I Hate This Part of Texas") to Appalachian-friendly folk ("Militia Song"). There's a fair smattering of the freak-flag flying that crept into their later work -- notably the Steve Reich interpolation "Come Out" -- as well as a slew of the short, sharp Balkan-styled instrumentals, such as "The Poppies of Balmorhea," that were always a favored flavoring. Most intriguing, however, is the uniting concept -- a not-so-vague post-9/11 tale of found patriotism turned rapidly into anti-government disillusionment -- that lets frontman David Lowery tweak listeners with one-liners that ultimately amount to serious commentary, as on the clever "That Gum You Like Is Back in Style" and the anthemic "51-7." Who knew that the class clowns could make so much sense in pointing out how the lunatics have taken over the asylum?

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Mark Deming
Camper Van Beethoven began stealthily reviving their recording career not long after reuniting in 2000 -- while the official line was that their idiosyncratic 2002 re-recording of Fleetwood Mac's Tusk was an older unreleased project, as was much of the material on the 2000 anthology Camper Van Beethoven Is Dead: Long Live Camper Van Beethoven, the truth is both were recorded following the band's return to touring. However, by 2004 they decided it was time to release a legitimately "new" album, and New Roman Times was the result. It also proved to be one of the most ambitious projects CvB had ever attempted, a 20-track concept album that imagines an alternate future where the United States has been reshaped into an uneasy association of 13 separate nations, as one young man from the Christian Republic of Texas signs up to fight in a civil war that's broken out between the Northern and Southern factions of California. As far as the album's ongoing narrative goes, it's hard to tell the players without a scorecard, but the album's themes of the nature of conflict, the trade in contraband as a form of underground governance, and how ordinary people find themselves caught up in large events all make themselves felt, even after casual listening. As the narrative would suggest, New Roman Times is somber by Camper Van Beethoven's standards, though numbers like "Hippie Chix," "I Hate This Part of Texas," and "Militia Song" show their playful side had not abandoned them, and though this edition of CvB took fewer chances musically than they did on their wildly eclectic early albums (and honestly sound tighter and more professional as a consequence), the faux internationalism of "R 'n' R Uzbekistan," "Sons of the New Golden West," and "Might Makes Right" sounds like the work of the band that made Telephone Free Landslide Victory. (And the oddball sonic manipulations of "Los Tigres Traficantes" and "Sons of the New Golden West (Reprise)" play nicely with CvB's long history of oblique, stoner-friendly humor.) New Roman Times isn't always of a piece with the band's celebrated body of work from the '80s, but it's not hard to imagine they could have come up with something like this as the follow-up to Key Lime Pie, and it's as imaginative as anything this band would ever bring forth.
Rolling Stone - Christian Hoard
The Campers know that while nuance may not always be as useful as righteous anger in the real world, it often yields better music.

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Product Details

Release Date:
10/12/2004
Label:
Vanguard Records
UPC:
0015707977920
catalogNumber:
79779

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Camper Van Beethoven   Primary Artist
Jonathan Segel   Synthesizer,Guitar,Violin,Vocals,Group Member
John Hickman   Autoharp,Background Vocals
Frank Funaro   Drums
David Immerglück   Guitar,Mandolin,Pedal Steel Guitar,Background Vocals,Group Member
Victor Krummenacher   Guitar,Bass Guitar,Group Member
Greg Lisher   Guitar,Group Member
David Lowery   Guitar,Piano,Vocals,Group Member
Kenny Margolis   Keyboards
Chris Molla   Synthesizer
Chris Pedersen   Percussion,Drums,Group Member
Lauren Hoffman   Background Vocals
William Edward "Zeb Turner" Grishaw   Piano,Analogue Synthesizer
Alan Weatherhead   Synthesizer,Guitar,Pedal Steel Guitar
Miguel Urbiztondo   Percussion,Drums
Anne Hege   Background Vocals
Casey Martin   Background Vocals
Ches Smith   Drums
Darion Arnette   Background Vocals
Teddy Blanks   Background Vocals
Nina Gates   Background Vocals
Julia McCauley   Background Vocals

Technical Credits

Camper Van Beethoven   Producer
Steve Reich   Composer
Jonathan Segel   Composer,Engineer
David Immerglück   Composer
Victor Krummenacher   Composer,Engineer
Greg Lisher   Composer
David Lowery   Composer,Engineer
Chris Molla   Composer
Chris Pedersen   Composer
John Morand   Engineer
Brent Lambert   Mastering
Alan Weatherhead   Engineer
Brian Hoffa   Engineer
Casey Martin   Engineer

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