Camper Van Beethoven: Telephone Free Landslide Victory (1985)

telephone free landslide victory album cover“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.” — David Lowery, in a 2013 interview.

Kronomyth 1.0: THE GRAND DADA OF THEM ALL. The Camper’s debut album featured a sticker on the outside packaging that wondered aloud what an absurdist/surrealist folk cum California punk band would sound like if they set out to write songs about TV dogs traveling to the moon, communist leaders lost in idle reverie and fictitious folkscapes from faraway places. The answer is a polka band tripping balls, about seventy-five percent of the time anyway. Which is not as much fun as you’d think. Sure, there are some great laughs on here—“The Day That Lassie Went to the Moon,” “Take The Skinheads Bowling,” “Club Med Sucks”—but you’ll need to wade through a lot of Ukrainian folk/punk/whatever in the meantime. The instrumentals (a/k/a the bulk of the album) are either ethnic ska or noisy folk/art or sometimes both (the winning “Balalaika Gap” for example). At their best (e.g., “Border Ska”), the instrumentals are short, guilty pleasures. At their worst, you’re reminded of why no one else was making music like this. The talent is definitely there, especially on the vocal tracks, which include an embellished cover of Black Flag’s “Wasted” and the perfectly titled “Ambiguity Song.” Wisely, the band inverted the vocal/instrumental ratio on subsequent albums, and the world warmed up to them. Here, however, it all feels like a soundtrack to an Eastern European art film, especially if you pick up the expanded edition that folds in the contents of the mostly instrumental Take The Skinheads Bowling EP. The deadpan vocal delivery, screeching violins and psychedelic garage sound are unmistakable as the Campers, but they initially set up camp pretty far out on the fringes, and it’s a bit of a hike just to hear a few good punk/pop songs.

Original LP Version
A1. Border Ska (David Lowery)
A2. The Day That Lassie Went To The Moon (David Lowery/David McDaniel)
A3. Wasted (Black Flag)
A4. Yanqui Go Home (David Lowery)
A5. Oh No! (Here It Comes Again) (David Lowery)
A6. 9 of Disks (Camper Van Beethoven)
A7. Payed Vacation: Greece (David Lowery)
A8. Where The Hell Is Bill? (David Lowery/Camper Van Beethoven)
A9. Vladivostock (Camper Van Beethoven)
B1. Skinhead Stomp (David Lowery)
B2. Tina (traditional arr. by Camper Van Beethoven/Henry Hample)
B3. Take The Skinheads Bowling (David Lowery)
B4. Mao Reminisces About His Days In Souther China (Victor Krummenacher/Chris Molla)
B5. I Don’t See You (David Lowery/Eric Laing)
B6. Balalaika Gap (David Lowery/David McDaniel)
B7. Opi Rides Again – Club Med Sucks (Chris Molla/David Lowery/Diane Durbin)
B8. Ambiguity Song (David Lowery)

Expanded Compact Disc Reissue
1. The Day That Lassie Went to the Moon
2. Border Ska
3. Wasted
4. Yanqui Go Home
5. Oh No!
6. 9 of Disks
7. Payed Vacation: Greece
8. Where the Hell Is Bill?
9. Wasting All Your Time
10. Epigram #5
11. Atkuda
12. Epigram #2
13. Cowboys From Hollywood
14. Colonel Enrique Adolfo Bermudez
15. Vladivostock
16. Skinhead Stomp
17. Tina
18. Take the Skinheads Bowling
19. Mao Reminisces About His Days in Southern China
20. I Don’t See You
21. Balalaika Gap
22. Opi Rides Again (Club Med Sucks)
23. Ambiguity Song

The Players
Victor H. Krummenacher (bass, vocals), Greg Lisher (guitar), David Lowery (vocals, guitar, drums), Chris Molla (guitar, vocals, drums), Jonathan Segal (violin, keyboards, mandolin, noise, vocals) with Anthony Guess (drums). Engineered by Dave Gill.

The Pictures
Camper Van Artwork by Gary Silverstein. Photography by David Allen.

The Plastic
Released on elpee and cassette in 1985 in the US (Independent Project, IP 016/C) and in 1986 in the UK (Rough Trade, ROUGH 95).

  1. Re-issued on compact disc in 1993 in the US (IRS, 13208-2).
  2. Re-released on expanded compact disc on April 27, 2004 in the US (SpinART) with 6 bonus tracks.

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