Camper Van Beethoven New Roman Times

Camper Van Beethoven New Roman Times
Fifteen years after calling it quits and splintering off to form Cracker, Monks of Doom and Hieronymous Firebrain, pioneering alt-rock combo Camper Van Beethoven makes its studio return with an ambitious, politically-charged rock opera about a Texas soldier who gets fed up with the neo-fascist routine and crosses over to the intellectual rebel underground. That storyline, however, is just one of the many charms of New Roman Times, an exhaustive 20-song CD that more than stands on its own as a collection of solid tunes and a remarkable return to blistering, oddball folk-infused CVB form. The disc introduces a range of new, progressive colours to the band’s sonic pallet, too, including some technological studio-isms that quite simply didn’t exist during the band’s first go round. That said, nothing here comes across as awkward or incongruous — a fact due in no small part to the band’s distinction of being well ahead of its time, especially in terms of its unprecedented creative marriage of punk rock, folk and world music. This is a stunningly great album from a band whose innovative style was, in years past, too often mistaken for novelty. Rarely has a band so effectively followed up a decade-and-a-half absence with a new release that not only isolates and revisits its key elements of yore, but betters just about everything it yielded in the past. (Pitch-A-Tent)