I spent some time not long ago with a friend who lives in New York City, which is to say, from my perspective, that she lives in another dimension entirely.
Fueled by nostalgia, I picked up the latest record from Camper Van Beethoven, “La Costa Perdida.” And I can confirm for you here that those old Greeks who said nothing stands still were right.
To review, as I’ve mentioned them before: Camper Van Beethoven, world-music-themed surf-punk band from the 1980s, took the ’90s off and are now on track to release an album at the leisurely pace of once a decade or so. They are particular favorites of mine. Their last record, 2004’s “New Roman Times,” was a relatively fiery post-Gulf War II concept album about soldiers in a balkanized future United States. I wouldn’t let the subject matter spook you, though, as their narrative approach is oblique and abstract enough to appeal across the political spectrum, or so I would hope. It also features space aliens and a song dedicated to a particularly curious line of dialogue from “Twin Peaks.”
By contrast, “La Costa Perdida” is a much mellower record. The most obvious desire expressed on it is to get away to the beach and relax. The music is a little muted, comparatively: more easy guitar strumming, fewer ska-influenced horns. If you are, like me, addicted to power pop hooks, you may need to put this on in the background a few times before it starts to work for you.
The clear standout is the title track, which brings in a little more exotic flavor (the song name checks banda and narcocorrido music) in service of a dark little story about a killer on the run in Mexico. The band is at its best spinning out strange tales like this one, plus it helps fill the gap between half-seasons of “Breaking Bad.”
There’s also a minor undercurrent of middle-aged longing, which I wouldn’t want to overstate — this isn’t a record about being or getting old, and it is definitely not a record worried about the future — but the title does translate to “the lost coast,” and there is a sense that despite the entreaties of “Northern California Girls,” getting back there might not be so easy. But it is worth making the trip.
• Simon Sizer is the legal and obituary clerk at the Yakima Herald-Republic. He’s constantly prattling on about music, so we gave him this column. It runs every two weeks.