Tag Archive | "Cracker"

Camper Van Beethoven, The Haunt, Brighton (30th May 2013)

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Camper Van Beethoven, The Haunt, Brighton (30th May 2013)

Posted on 02 June 2013 by Dorian

It is always a special thing when you see one of your all time favourite bands, it is made even more special when it is more than a decade since they last played in the UK. That time they played in the Queen Elizabeth Hall on the south bank, this time I’m seeing them in the less salubrious but more intimate Haunt in Brighton.

Camper Van Beethoven

The name alone means that newcomers are likely to struggle with the concept of Camper Van Beethoven, and when faced by this group of graying musicians playing their unique mix of ska, pop, punk and country tunes it is not always an easy sell. To the initiated they are pretty much the perfect band, and this is as close to perfect as a gig can get.

David Lowery is an unassuming front-man, and his vocals are not going to win any singing contests, but his songs and lyrics are wonderful and his delivery of them filled with just the right levels of pathos. The rest of the band are excellent as well, Victor Krummenacher’s wandering bass lines, Jonathan Segal’s close to the edge fiddle and Greg Lisher’s scorching lead guitar. The four veterans joined on drums by Cracker’s Frank Funaro, original drummer Chris Pederson now living in Australia.

Camper Van Beethoven

As a fan-boy you have the conflict of being spoilt for choice with the shear number of great tracks you’d like to hear and knowing that thney’ll never be able to play every one of your top choices. The band work through a long set that covers every period of their career and includes so many of their best songs that I’ll even forgive them for not playing ‘Sweethearts’, ‘We’re A Bad Trip’ or ‘That Gum You Like Is Back In Style’.

‘Waka’ opens the show, an instrumental track that throws in every kind of music from their repertoire in one pot gets away with it through force of personality. Second up is ‘Pictures of Matchstick Men’ the Quo cover that almost made them stars when released in the US in 1989. In fact both their “hits” are played tonight with ‘Take The Skinheads Bowling’ making a highly enjoyable appearance later in the set.

It is difficult to pick out highlights, so good was the standard throughout, but I’ll never tire of hearing ‘All Her Favorite Fruit’ or ‘Seven Languages’ and to hear them played live is such a rare thing that it takes some beating.

The band choose not to leave the stage for the standard encore routine, objecting to the fact that it wastes a song in the process. As a result they manage to fit in ‘Good Guys And Bad Guys’ and ‘Ambiguity Song’ at the end of the set, both songs  as brilliant now as they were  in 1986 and 1985 respectively.

I understand that this is a bit of an impartial review, and one that is no good to you know that their UK tour is over. But if it makes one reader pick up one of their albums and fall in love with one of the world’s best bands, then that makes my job worthwhile. Maybe that person will be there in the audience with me in 2023.

By Dorian Rogers

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David Lowery – The Palace Guards

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David Lowery – The Palace Guards

Posted on 20 February 2011 by Dorian

The Palace Guards is the first solo album from Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven front-man David Lowery, and it is something of a triumph. Originally conceived as a set of songs that would be released only on YouTube (you can read more about this on his excellent ‘300 Songs’ blog here) it is a typically esoteric nine song collection recorded with a variety of accomplices over several years.

David Lowery - The Palace Guards

David Lowery - The Palace Guards

Opening with the titular ‘The Palace Guards’ the album throws an immediate curve-ball, the song doesn’t sound like either of his bands, it sounds more like Pavement. Two thirds of the way through the song it takes a twist and sounds just like a David Lowery song, and a good one at that. The songs on the album sound in parts like you’d expect it to, a bit Cracker here, a bit Camper Van Beethoven there and even some snatches of Sparklehorse (the late Mark Linkous guests on the album). This is no surprise, I certainly wasn’t expecting a brand new direction for this record, and a it is an album that has an identity of its own.

The songs are top quality throughout, we get stomping country on ‘Raise ‘Em Up On Honey’, indie rock on ‘Baby, All Those Girls Meant Nothing To Me’ and (best of all) whimsical balladry on ‘I Sold The Arabs The Moon’. There really isn’t a bad track on the album, and in the few weeks I have owned the album, it has already become my most played record of the year.

You can tell that the songs here were not conceived as an album. They don’t flow in a sequence as a purpose created album would, some changes of pace and style are a little jarring. This doesn’t seem to matter though as the quality of the songs is so good, it is a little like listening to a “best of” collection from a set of albums you’ve never heard. The one downside of the album is the length, at only 9 tracks it is over all too soon. But hey,that means that you get an album, as Sum 41 would say, that is all killer, no filler.

9/10

By Dorian Rogers

To buy a signed copy of the  album (and get an immediate digital download) go to David Lowery’s website here.

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David Lowery and Johnny Hickman: The Albert, Brighton, 12 Dec 2010

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David Lowery and Johnny Hickman: The Albert, Brighton, 12 Dec 2010

Posted on 17 December 2010 by Dorian

Camper Van Beethoven have long been one of my favourite bands (see my Bands Who Changed Our Lives feature), and Cracker are another staple on my MP3 player so the chance to see singer and songwriter David Lowery in a low key pub setting was pretty special. Accompanied by his Cracker sidekick, guitarist Johnny Hickman, Lowery played an excellent set of favourite songs by both of his bands.

David Lowery and Johnny Hickman

David Lowery and Johnny Hickman

The gig was an afternoon affair, which is unusual but made a refreshing change, and the pub room was a very different environment from the concert hall where I first saw Camper Van Beethoven play. Lowery and Hickman were warm, friendly hosts and funny stories broke up the songs through the afternoon. An accident falling out of the car on route to the gig had left Lowery with an injured hand, and some songs were left out of the set (if bar chords were required). With such a large amount of songs to pick from the back catalogue this didn’t prove to be a problem.

The set was Cracker heavy with songs from their recent albums sounding great in the duo format, and early “hits” ‘Low’ and ‘Teen Angst’ having the warm familiarity of a well loved old friend. Only the lack of (my personal favourite) ‘Big Dipper’ disappointed. The set also featured a song from Lowery’s solo album due for release next year.

The Camper Van Beethoven songs were a real treat and a real favourites selection. ‘Good Guys and Bad Guys’, ‘All Her Favourite Fruit’ and ‘Take The Skinheads Bowling’ showed the amazing depth of Lowery’s songwriting through his career. The highlight for me was a beautiful rendition of ‘Sweethearts’ a clever, subtle and timeless tune that may well be Lowery’s crowning achievement.

David Lowery

David Lowery

Johnny Hickman is a fantastic guitarist, possibly the best I’ve had the pleasure to see play live. Even in the subdued afternoon pub setting his solos and tricks worked wonderfully. His skill is such that when he played the Camper Van Beethoven songs it was like he had been playing them since the beginning.

Lowery and Hickman are very different figures and it was pointed out to me how everything about Hickman is clean and neat (voice, clothes, hair, guitar playing) and everything about Lowery is slightly ragged. It is this combination that makes their music so magical and unique. A really fantastic afternoon of music with two unheralded heroes of the business.

9/10

Words by Dorian Rogers, pictures by Nic Newman

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