Camper Van Beethoven | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Camper Van Beethoven 

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With the radical right about two Supreme Court confirmations and one tax-code overhaul away from a complete repeal of the 20th century, punklings born too late to rant about Reagan are cherishing their moment of up-against-the-wall-motherfucker protest. But Santa Cruz's Camper Van Beethoven, punklings themselves back in the Reagan era, were always either too smart or too restless to settle for simple agitprop; the lyrics to songs like "Joe Stalin's Cadillac" weren't particularly subtle, but the absurdity of the band's world-folk-psychedelia hybrid suggested they were usually searching for musical and political spaces that had eluded colonization. Reunited in 2000, the Campers now give relevance the old college-rock try by translating their much-soured worldview into New Roman Times (Vanguard), a sprawling concept album best enjoyed by not paying too much attention to its life-during-wartime narrative. The parallel flights of Jonathan Segal's violin and Greg Lisher's guitar are more disorienting and visionary than ever, but also less expansive and optimistic; they've taken refuge from the bludgeoning stupidity of the everyday in the refined intricacies of prog. And mocking the same yahoos for so long has taken its toll on singer David Lowery--whenever the satire gets explicit, his valley-boy drawl drips with enervated resentment. These elegies for the protest era might sound less resonant after Election Day, but don't count on it--Rome wasn't humbled just because another emperor took the throne. Damnwells open. Friday 29, 7 PM, Metro, 3730 N. Clark, 773-549-0203 or 312-559-1212, $21, 18+.

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