Saturday, January 25, 2014

Camper Van Beethoven: “Key Lime Pie” (2014 re-issue) CD Review

Omnivore Recordings is reissuing a couple of excellent Camper Van Beethoven albums, including Key Lime Pie, the band’s final album before their 1990 breakup. This one has a more serious feel than previous releases. But while it might not be as playful as earlier Camper Van Beethoven albums, it’s just as good (if not better). There are a lot of excellent songs on this album, including “The Light From A Cake” and “All Her Favorite Fruit.” There is one cover on the original album, that being Status Quo’s “Pictures Of Matchstick Men,” which ended up being a hit for Camper Van Beethoven.

This special re-issue contains 78 minutes of music, with nearly a half hour of bonus material. As with the re-issue of Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, several of the bonus tracks are live tracks, previously unreleased. Also, there are new liner notes and several photos.

Key Lime Pie opens with the appropriately titled “Opening Theme,” a cool instrumental track with an old-time European feel to it that I love. The tune is dominated by violin. It’s gorgeous.

“Jack Ruby”

Things kick into gear with “Jack Ruby,” giving an interesting description of the man who shot the man who supposedly shot JFK (“His glasses are folded in his vest/And he seems like the kind of man that beats his horses/Or the dancers who work in a bar”). It has kind of an angry sound, which is perfect for its theme. The song has an unrelenting rhythm and drive, as it tells its tale. “Avert your eyes with shame/Let us stand and speak of the weather/And pretend that nothing ever happened on that day/Grant us the luxury, ‘cause all our heroes are bastards.”


“Sweethearts” has a more relaxed, laid-back, sweeter country feel. But the song has a strangely dark vibe due to its lyrics, as the man in the story goes off to war. “He left his baby at the dance hall/While the band plays on, some sweet song.”  And then: “They bear the names of our sweethearts/And the captain smiles as we crash.” At the end we go inside the viewpoint of that bastard Ronald Reagan. (Whenever I’m upset, I just remind myself that at least Ronald Reagan is still dead.) “Buildings collapse in slow motion/And trains collide/Everything is fine/Everything is fine/Everything is fine.” Pretty awesome, eh?

“When I Win The Lottery”

“When I Win The Lottery” is one of my favorites. It has an interesting, somewhat angry perspective, heard in David’s vocal delivery. It’s interesting because usually when folks think of winning the lottery, it’s a very positive, happy fantasy. But this narrator has other things in mind. “When I win the lottery/Gonna buy all the girls on my block/A color TV and a bottle of French perfume/When I win the lottery/Gonna donate half my money to the city/So they have to name a street or a school or a park after me.”  But these are the lines that make me really love this tune: “When the end comes to this old world/The righteous will cry and the rest will curl up/And God won’t take the time to sort your ashes from mine/Because we zig and zag between good and bad/Stumble and fall on right and wrong.” This song also has an unusual ending.

Another of my favorites is “The Light From A Cake,” with its beautiful, strange vibe. I love the violin. “June” is also wonderful. I love the chaotic instrumental section that ends the song.

“All Her Favorite Fruit”

“All Her Favorite Fruit” is an unusual and completely wonderful love song. It begins, “I drive alone, home from work/And I always think of her/Late at night I call her/But I never say a word/And I can see her squeeze the phone between her chin and shoulder/And I can almost smell her breath faint with a sweet scent of decay.”  I love the way David adds power to his vocals on “And I’d like to take her there, rather than this train.” It’s an excellent and surprisingly moving song.

“Pictures Of Matchstick Men”

The original album’s sole cover is a really good rendition of “Pictures Of Matchstick Men.” It lacks that psychedelic vibe of the original, and is more of a straight rock song – except, of course, for the wonderful presence of violin. “Your face just won’t leave me alone.”

The original album concludes with “Come On Darkness,” another favorite of mine. It ends with the plea, “Come on, darkness,” and then the drumbeat (reminding me of the way The Kinks ended “Strangers”).

Bonus Tracks

This special re-issue of Key Lime Pie features nine bonus tracks. The first, “Closing Theme,” is a very cool instrumental which apparently was originally scheduled to close the album (thus the title). But the album was too long, and the song wouldn’t fit. It was released on the EP Pictures Of Matchstick Men and, as “Guitar Hero,” on a giveaway. This song is included on the new vinyl release. Also included is a different version of “(I Was Born In A) Laundromat,” which was released as a promotional single.

The rest of the bonus tracks were previously unreleased, and include a demo of “Country 2,” a nice instrumental track.

The last six tracks are live recordings, the first four from a show at the Universal Amphitheater on October 10, 1989. Two of those are originals – “Good Guys And Bad Guys” and the ever-popular “Take The Skinheads Bowling.” The other two are covers of “Wasted” (a Black Flag song that Camper Van Beethoven included on their first album) and “Before I Met You” (which has been recorded by many artists, including Dolly Parton). “Wasted” is excellent, with a lot of great energy. And this rendition of “Before I Met You” is absolutely beautiful, and is the track most firmly in the country realm of all the songs on this CD.

The final two bonus tracks were recorded live on Soho National Sessions in 1990. The first, “L’aguardiente,” is an excellent instrumental, and is one of my favorite tracks on the CD, going in interesting directions. The second is a good acoustic version of “(I Don’t Wanna Go To The) Lincoln Shrine,” leading to a bit of “Oh Yoko!” at the end.

CD Track List

  1. Opening Theme
  2. Jack Ruby
  3. Sweethearts
  4. When I Win The Lottery
  5. (I Was Born In A) Laundromat
  6. Borderline
  7. The Light From A Cake
  8. June
  9. All Her Favorite Fruit
  10. Interlude
  11. Flowers
  12. The Humid Press Of Days
  13. Pictures Of Matchstick Men
  14. Come On Darkness
  15. Closing Theme (AKA Guitar Hero)
  16. (I Was Born In A) Laundromat (edit)
  17. Country 2
  18. Good Guys & Bad Guys (live)
  19. Wasted (live)
  20. Take The Skinheads Bowling (live)
  21. Before I Met You (live)
  22. I’aguardiente
  23. (I Don’t Wanna Go To The) Lincoln Shrine

This special re-issue of Key Lime Pie is scheduled to be released on February 11, 2014 through Omnivore Recordings. Also scheduled for release on that day is the re-issue of Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart, which also has several bonus tracks. Both albums will also be available on vinyl. (Originally these were scheduled for a February 4th release.)

No comments:

Post a Comment