Album: Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart
It’s entirely possible that there were more unlikely major-label signings in the late-1980s than Camper Van Beethoven, but none come to mind. And not that I cared: my philosophy is that an artist can make great music just as easily for a major label as they can for an indie, and I’ve heard as many tales of artists getting fiscally screwed by indies as I have of artists getting screwed by majors.
And yeah, there’s always the “meddling record company” aspect, but it seems to me that any artist who lets a record company fuck that much with their music probably wasn’t fully committed to it in the first place, and it’s entirely possible that I might not have liked them on an indie anyways.
And in 2015, with the major record labels essentially hollowed-out husks of what they once were, I’m guessing that it’s a distinction without a difference to a lot of young people – maybe even for the hipsters who buy the vinyl where you can still see the actual physical manifestations of the labels.
Anyways, this is a roundabout way of saying that there was definitely an effect of recording with a major-label producer: Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart definitely sounds better than the earlier CVB records. But luckily – with its twisty songs about acid-eating cowboys, Patti Hearst and Death – it remained uniquely weird. It still sounded like no one else in the universe.
And I loved the bouncy “Life is Grand,” which confronted our generational cynicism head-on with a perfect combination of bouncy music and optimistic lyrics:
And life is grand
And I will say this at the risk of falling from favor
With those of you who have appointed yourselves
To expect us to say something darker
And love is real
And though I realize this is not a deep observation
To those of you who find it necessary
To conceal love or obscure it, as is the fashion
Coming out during the onset of what I still consider the worst summer of my life, I didn’t particularly believe “Life is Grand” – especially that verse about love – but I was sure glad that it existed. Even in the existentially dark mood I was in, I could appreciate what Camper Van Beethoven was trying to say, and actually hoped that I would eventually agree with it. Which, of course, I do.
“Life is Grand”