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Camper Van Chadbourne: Used Record Pile

Glenn Astarita By

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What can one say about guitarist and overall Renaissance man Eugene Chadbourne? A brilliant guitarist, sociopolitical commentator, one of the key figures or proponents of the 1970’s New York City avant-garde scene, numerous collaborations and multifarious recordings. On this release featuring his work with the infamous and somewhat outrageous folk-rock band, Camper Van Beethoven, Chadbourne and company spoof rock, the Gulf War, George Bush and Frank Zappa among others. Used Record Pile represents recordings made between 1987-1991 under the moniker of “Camper Van Chadbourne”.

The opening track sets the pace as the boys perform an altogether hilarious Country & Western version of King Crimson’s somewhat morose prog-rock ballad, “I Talk To The Wind”. They also poke fun at hypocritical “Evil Country Preachers” and perform a “Frank Zappa Medley” as the vocals mimic some of Zappa’s early work sounding as though the singers inhaled helium in order to attain a high pitched, nasal voice. On “Fayettenam” and other tracks Chadbourne and the boys often construct caricatures of your typical inept or amateur C&W or Bluegrass band by performing slightly off-key and/or out of tune. Owing to Chadbourne’s extensive improvisational background you’re also apt to hear sequences of free jazz performed with banjos, fiddles et al. Lyrics such as “They can make it rain bombs, but they can’t make it rain”.....mock War, fallibility.....

Despite the antics, silliness, social overtones and vastly unorthodox performances, most of this is a gas coupled with the obvious fact that these folks can play, especially Chadbourne who could make most guitarists cringe at the thought of partaking in a cutting contest. Welcome to the madcap worlds of Eugene Chadbourne and Camper Van Beethoven, as you may file this one next to all of your old “Fugs, Beefheart and Zappa” LPs. * * * *


Title: Used Record Pile | Year Released: 1999 | Record Label: Swamp Room Records


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