OK, there you go: goofy. It’s the single word I really didn’t want to use, since it’s probably the most over-used adjective in CVB reviews, but ... I quickly realized that I just wasn’t going to be able to avoid it – blame it on my limited vocabulary. Well, it is true that Lowery & Co. didn’t exactly opt for the easy gay jokes, nor do they wallow in Zappa-esque socio-cultural smarminess or predictably self-satisfied musical references.
Basically, Camper is the ultimate college band, hailing from University city of Santa Cruz, playing a highly literate and playful brand of music that combines seemingly incompatible genres (such as punk - although they quickly toned that down - ska, gypsy music, Eastern-European and Asian folk music, and even doo-wop) that only their fellow students and some hip critics seemed to care about. Despite their limited exposure, their music can hardly be called cerebral or uneventful. Quirky and adventurous? Yes. Inaccessible? No, unless you’ve only heard the painfully dumb slices of over-produced turds that are sold as 'pop' these days.
Anyway, before I create an image of myself as a hateful individual bearing a grudge against all things commercial, let me just declare Telephone Free Landslide Victory
is one hell of an enjoyable album. Not revelatory or anything, but it might be an antidote for undesired seriousness or misplaced pretentiousness. The spirit the band celebrates is one of multi-cultural adventure, all packed into short slices of satire – only two out of 17 songs are longer than three minutes.
Quite remarkably, half the album is instrumentals, and while some of them (“9 of Disks”, “Payed Vacation: Greece”) are a bit repetitive, their brevity and uplifting nature ensures that none of them could be labelled misfires. On the contrary: several of these tracks are so smartly crafted they easily make up for lack of vocals. “Vladivostock” and “Skinhead Stomp” apply ska to reach their goal, and while the former benefits most from the semi-melancholic violin playing of Jonathan Segel (who also handles keyboards, mandolin, and other miscellaneous stuff), the second one sounds as if The Specials are teaching themselves the essentials of Bulgarian folk music.
by Reviewer: Guy Peters
(blogging at Guy's Music Review Site