some country flavored tracks especially the included clip
not enough to call the album country
best of the young year for me

Grade - 2.1

released Feb 1st, 2011

from the album - Raise 'Em Up On Honey - 2.5


from all music


With his band Camper Van Beethoven, vocalist David Lowery was college radio's preeminent smart aleck in the mid-to-late '80s, writing goofy, witty songs delivered with his trademark slacker whine. Although in retrospect not as acknowledged in pioneering American alternative rock as R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe or Nirvana's Kurt Cobain, Lowery embodied the independent spirit of college music with his unpolished, nasally vocals and irreverent, sometimes surrealistic lyrics.

Born in Texas on September 10, 1960, Lowery was a military brat, constantly relocating to different locales with his family until moving to Redlands, CA, where he attended high school. Lowery formed Camper Van Beethoven in Santa Cruz, CA, with Chris Molla (guitar), Chris Pedersen (drums), Victor Krummenacher (bass), Greg Lisher (guitar), and Jonathan Segel (mandolin, violin, keyboards). The band's 1985 debut LP, Telephone Free Landslide Victory, was hailed by critics and became an instant college-radio classic. The oddball cult hit "Take the Skinheads Bowling" eventually took a life of its own, immortalized on '80s flashback radio programs and compilation CDs.

Along with R.E.M. and the Replacements, Camper Van Beethoven were among a handful of American underground acts that prevented U.K. post-punk groups from completely dominating campus left-of-the-dial stations. Unlike those other two bands, though, Camper Van Beethoven weren't treated as seriously, praised for their genre-bending clash of punk, country, and folk but not viewed as making important, revolutionary contributions to rock & roll. Camper Van Beethoven had little success outside of the college circuit; they were too quirky and unpredictable for mainstream audiences. In 1989, accusations of selling out to AOR radio arrived with the group's slick and FM-friendly cover of Status Quo's "Pictures of Matchstick Men." The remake elevated them to regular rotation status on MTV; however, the band soon split up.

A year later, Lowery created a new band, Cracker, with guitarist Johnny Hickman and bassist Davey Faragher. Jettisoning the weirdness of Camper Van Beethoven, Lowery opted for more of a straightforward rock sound. Consequently, Cracker developed a much bigger following and scored a number of MTV and radio smashes such as "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)" and "Low." Despite his increasingly commercial approach, Lowery's tongue-in-cheek, sarcastic observations remained intact.

Album Review

David Lowery made his first record with Camper Van Beethoven in 1985, and in the quarter-century that's followed, he's been content to project his distinctive musical and lyrical persona through the framework of CVB, and later, Cracker. But in 2011, Lowery has finally gotten around to releasing a solo album; The Palace Guards was recorded with a revolving cast of musicians at Lowery's own studio in Richmond, VA, and though parts of it sound and feel quite a bit like his work with Cracker and occasionally it reveals shadows of CVB's eclectic gumbo of sounds, the mood of The Palace Guards is decidedly different than what Lowery has offered us in the past. The Palace Guards is a far cry from a serious statement on the world, but for a guy who has built a career out of being a surreal smart aleck, this album embraces a worldview that's decidedly somber and contemplative. "I Sold the Arabs the Moon" offers a symbolic history of deceit and armed conflict set to a moody waltz-time melody, "Baby, All Those Girls Meant Nothing to Me" is a crunchy rocker complete with big guitars and shouted vocals as some guy tries to explain his lousy attitude toward women to his significant other, and the title tune is a shambolic acoustic number about a hero whose motives seem more than a bit suspect. The Palace Guards isn't an album without a sense of humor, but given that Cracker and CVB were funny bands in the best sense of the word, the relatively dour tone of this album feels significant; these songs are rich and clever, and Lowery's many friends and collaborators offer excellent musical support on a piece of work that in subtle but important ways is an album he couldn't (or wouldn't) have made with either of his usual bands. Lowery might not want to make a career out of his serious side, but The Palace Guards shows he can wise up and still make music that's smart and satisfying.

Track Listing

1 Raise 'Em Up on Honey Lowery 4:27
2 The Palace Guards Lowery 3:40
3 Deep Oblivion Lowery 5:35
4 Ah, You Left Me 3:47
5 Baby, All Those Girls Meant Nothing to Me Lowery 4:07
6 I Sold the Arabs the Moon Lowery 4:03
7 Marigold Lowery 5:29
8 Big Life Lowery 4:25
9 Submarine Lowery 3:47