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Popular Songs of Great Enduring Strength and Beauty

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Album Review

Popular Songs of Great Enduring Strength and Beauty collects 18 cuts from mercurial post-punk/indie pop/garage folk legends Camper Van Beethoven, marking the group's first foray into the murky world of the "career overview." Like the band's nearly 25-year career, Strength and Beauty is built on the CVB holy trinity of endurance, charisma, and attitude, all three of which were put to the test when the band approached Virgin Records about buying back the rights to 1988's Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart and 1989's Key Lime Pie. In keeping with big-label stereotypes, the answer was no, so CVB re-recorded five tracks for the anthology, doing everything in their power to re-create the magic as faithfully as they could. David Lowery's voice tries admirably to emulate its '80s incarnation on classics like Key Lime's "All Her Favorite Fruit" and "When I Win the Lottery," and the musicianship and production are top-notch, but fans who held those final two records close to their hearts during the ensuing Cracker years will notice the difference. That said, the rest of the album is top-notch, featuring enough instant classics like "Take the Skinheads Bowling" and "The Day That Lassie Went to the Moon" to turn a whole new generation on to punk-infused, ska-kissed Americana. At best, it's a tasty sampler on which to judge whether or not a listener is ready to dive into the mammoth five-disc Cigarettes & Carrot Juice: The Santa Cruz Years, and it dutifully doles out all of the quirky charm, genre-bending musicianship, and good-natured invective that infected so many people during the band's heydays.


Formed: 1983 in Redlands, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

Back in the day, before alternative rock was invented and indie rock was still shy of roots music and other folk elements, Camper Van Beethoven's merging of punk, folk, ska, and world music was truly a revelation. Singer/songwriter David Lowery's smart-aleck lyrics, delivered in laid-back California style, combined with Jonathan Segel's violin as lead instrument, were the band's instant trademarks. Decades after their inception, CVB's sound is still remarkably fresh and their influence on alternative...
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Popular Songs of Great Enduring Strength and Beauty, Camper Van Beethoven
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