Camper Van Beethoven – La Costa Perdida (2013)

There is a majestic weirdness to Camper Van Beethoven, recaptured in all of its freak-flag glory on La Costa Perdida, their first studio effort in some eight years.

The album, due January 22, 2013 on 429 Records, traverses across a dizzying soundscape, pausing just long enough to delight and intrigue before moving on — with only a loose geographical subtext relating to their growing up along the northern California coast as a rallying point.

The folks in Camper are, by turns, as adept at comfy Americana (the opening “Come Down the Coast”), as they are a bad-tripping psych-rocker (“Too High for the Love-In”). They can be weirdly foreboding (“You Got To Roll”), then blissfully unhinged (“Someday Our Love Will Sell Us Out”). Next, you’ll find them stamping their way through something that might be best described as Middle Eastern rockabilly (“Peaches in the Summertime”).

And that’s only the first five songs on La Costa Perdida.

Recording together for the first time since 2004’s New Roman Times, Camper Van Beethoven sounds just as willfully multifaceted, as hard-headedly all over the map as they’ve ever been — something that simultaneously makes La Costa Perdida familiar and yet utterly new.

That flinty cohesion, by the way, isn’t just a credit to a shared history together stretching back to the 1980s and college-radio staples like “Take the Skinheads Bowling” and “Pictures of Matchstick Men.” This album was actually recorded “together” — composed of a piece, in a living room, the old-fashioned way. That means no passing of internet files, in the parlance of today’s recording. No emailed collaborations.

If La Costa Perdida often unfolds like a series of joyously offbeat songs played around a beat-up coffeetable at an old friend’s house, well, that’s because it kinda was. You hear that camaraderie, that intuitive sense of musical brotherhood, in every note: In the tandem guitar and violin of “Summer Days,” in the sauntering old-west picking of the title track, in the doped-up Beach Boys feel of “North California Girls,” in the thunderstruck reverie of “Love for All Time.”

Uncommon for a group so long gone, Camper Van Beethoven has found a way to return with a fizzy, unself-conscious sense of spontaneity. It’s like they never left.

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso