Camper Van Beethoven has reunited to record its first studio album in 15 years. A rock opera of sorts, “New Roman Times” is due Oct. 12 via Pitch-A-Tent/Vanguard and features all five original members of the infamous quasi-folk rock band.
Leading the band is guitarist/vocalist David Lowery, who went on to form the commercially successful modern rock act Cracker following CBV’s demise in 1990. Bassist Victor Krummenacher and drummer Chris Pederson formed Monks Of Doom after leaving Camper, while guitarist Greg Lisher joined Swingin’ Utters side project Filthy Thevin’ Bastards.
Violinist Jonathan Segel rounds out the original group, while later-era CBV members guitarist Chris Molla and guitarist/multi-instrumentalist David Immergluck (Counting Crows) are also featured.
“New Roman Times” relays the story of a troubled young Texan. After some instrumental scene-setting, “51 7” describes his tough adolescence and home life, and a desire to prove himself that leads to enlisting in the military and a stint in a war.
In “Might Makes Right,” the character discusses his invading force’s occupation and questions whether or not God is on their side, as he’s been told. Later, “I Am Talking to This Flower” finds the drug-addled former soldier fighting his conscience back at home.
Though obviously reflecting Lowery’s views on current world affairs, the 20-track set is also inspired by the military veterans within the songwriter’s own family, including his father. To ensure accuracy in his tales, he discussed weapons and tactics with soldiers currently serving.
Despite the serious nature of much the subject matter, there is plenty of room for levity, as should be expected from an act whose best-known song is “Take the Skinheads Bowling.”
“This story isn’t really supposed to be about Iraq, Afghanistan or even war,” Lowery says. “It’s actually about the deep gulf between the ‘red’ and the ‘blue’ parts of the country. I made it a sci-fi alternate reality so that I could exaggerate the differences. Plus I could make things lighter and more tongue in cheek.”
Camper Van Beethoven’s last studio album was 1989’s “Key Lime Pie,” its second and final album for Virgin, the future home of Cracker. The album yielded a No. 1 Modern Rock Tracks hit in the band’s cover of Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men.”
In 2002, Pitch-A-Tent produced an artifact from the CBV archives with the release of “Tusk,” a complete remake of the classic Fleetwood Mac album of the same name recorded between 1987’s “Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart” and “Key Lime Pie.”
Camper will hit the road beginning Aug. 4 in Boulder, Colo., and has dates on tap through Aug. 27 in Tucson, Ariz.
Here is the “New Roman Times” track list:
“New Sons of the Golden West”
“White Fluffy Clouds”
“That Gum You Like Is Back in Style”
“Might Makes Might”
“R and R Uzbekistan”
“Sons of the New Golden West Reprise”
“New Roman Times”
“The Poppies of Balmorhea”
“Long Plastic Hallway”
“I Am Talking to This Flower”
“Los Tigres Traficantes”
“I Hate This Part of Texas”
“Hippy Chix (Oath of the CBV)”