Wednesday, November 13, 2013

our beloved revolutionary sweetheart

Camper Van Beethoven graduated from the underground and polished their eclectic sound for this irresistible iconoclastic insurrection.  After releasing three celebrated albums of surreal indie folk  ('Telephone Free Landslide Victory''Camper Van Beethoven II & III', and their eponymous third album) on Pitch-A-Tent Records, the group signed to Virgin Records.  At the same time, founding member Chris Molla left the band.  

David Lowery explains the evolution of their sound:   "We did the first Camper album not knowing [’60s West coast psychedelic band] Kaleidoscope and then the second album is discovering Kaleidoscope, and if you know that fact, you can completely hear it. That’s where the sort of ’60s hippie violin/gypsy craziness mixes with the punk rock gypsy/ska craziness. Yeah, Kaleidoscope turned out to be an influence on us. I didn’t really know anything about Eastern European, klezmer, Balkan music, or any of that stuff. The idea of Camper Van Beethoven was like what the surf bands did … like, 'Oh, well this is our idea of what Ali Baba sounds like', where they played it on surf guitars. So this was like, 'Well this is our idea of what Eastern European music sounds like, we’re gonna play, like, fake Eastern European music.'  The whole point was getting it wrong and creating something new."

After years of producing themselves, they hired  Dennis Herring, who had only produced one album at that point, to helm their first sessions in an a professional studio with David Lowery on lead vocals and rhythm guitar; Jonathan Segel on violin, mandolin, keyboards, guitar, and backing vocals; Victor Krummenacher on bass and backing vocals; Greg Lisher on lead guitar; and Chris Pedersen on drums.  Lowery says:    "Dennis was like a session musician at the time. He played on the Flashdance soundtrack and stuff. He was trying to get out of all that - get into indie rock, alternative. He would come see us at shows and knew all these label people. He had lined himself up and I liked him and trusted him. He knew our vision and he knew the Hollywood ways...would let us go off on our tangents and then would bring us back. We needed that...We never had that 'we don't like the commercial stuff' attitude. We liked Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, The Stones, The Beatles. We wanted to be Pink Floyd. In the big studio, we had access to all that stuff. Let's use it."

Herring recalls:   "I really came at that record like a fan, and as a fan.  I wanted to hear the Camper record that sounded like they'd coalesced everything they did into their trip, and into one record. I felt like the record should try to include everything they were doing stylistically, and that I had to make that work, sound and arrangement-wise."

Segel says:  "David Lee Roth was in the next room when we were recording basics. I was hoping for a high quality recording but very dry. Unfortunately, Dennis Herring and I had a lot of arguments about that. I can't even listen to it now. I felt like, and still feel like, Dennis Herring is a fraud as a producer. I feel like he's a gleaner. He epitomizes what a Hollywood production is to me. He's an engineer, and he's a great engineer but he's a man without aesthetics. His entire aesthetics are gleaned from what he's picked up from people around him that did things that were good and interesting. He stole a lot of ideas from me - the last time I saw him he told me that."

'Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart' only made it to number one hundred and twenty-four on the Billboard album chart; but it received considerable airplay on college and the fledgling alternative radio of the time.  

"Eye of Fatima (Part One)" - 2:37

"She Divines Water" - 3:53

"One of These Days"


"Never Go Back"

"Life Is Grand"

'Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart'
full album:

All songs written by Camper Van Beethoven (David Lowery, Jonathan Segel, Greg Lisher, Victor Krummenacher, Chris Pedersen), except as shown.

Side one
"Eye of Fatima (Part One)" - 2:37
"Eye of Fatima (Part Two)" - 2:15
"O Death" (Traditional) - 3:06
"She Divines Water" - 3:53
"Devil Song" - 1:56
"One of These Days" - 3:27
"Turquoise Jewelry" - 3:07
Side two
"Waka" - 2:45
"Change Your Mind" - 3:02
"My Path Belated" - 2:35
"Never Go Back" - 3:25
"The Fool" - 2:36
"Tania" - 3:46
"Life Is Grand" - 3:23

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