By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
But it's not overly silly, either -- particularly in the title track, in which the maimed young soldier bemoans his life after war: "I'm living in a town out on/the Big Rio Bend/My caseworker is always drunk/And my wife don't give a shit."
As Segel says, "It may be a concept record, but all the songs can actually be taken by themselves." In fact, the songs, individually and collectively, are the strongest that Camper Van Beethoven has recorded. "New Roman Times" and the stunning "That Gum You Like Is Back in Style" are lush country ballads tinged with a druggy haze, while "The Long Plastic Highway," "White Fluffy Clouds" and "Hippie Chix," driven by Greg Lisher's furious guitar, rock harder than anything in Camper's old discography. The Unabomber gets his own song, and it features the album's best vintage Camper Van Beethoven deadpan-ridiculous lyric: "Studied mathematics at Berkeley/Now I don't like society."
New Roman Times features the core members of Camper Van Beethoven -- Segel, Lowery, guitarist Lisher, bassist Victor Krummenacher and drummer Chris Pederson, along with later member David Immerglück and a cameo by original member Chris Molla -- and their rapport is so tight that you might imagine fifteen years' worth of unreleased Camper Van Beethoven albums in a vault somewhere, but Segel believes that the new album's flavor is as much a product of the fifteen-year separation.
"We've all been making music in the interim in all of our different forms and our different bands and stuff like that, so coming back together, the chemistry of working with these people was still there, and our creative methods were still there, but in funny ways," he says. "It's just probably because we're all older and different musicians," he adds. "We've been playing for longer, and obviously we're the same people as we were back in [the early years of] Camper Van Beethoven, but it's with the addition of more years under our belt."