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Camper Van Beethoven Tusk Review

Album. Released 2003.  

BBC Review

The last thing we hear is one of the band murmuring "ah, that was a bad idea"...

Peter Marsh 2003

In the late 70s Fleetwood Mac's Rumours was one of those albums that was impossible to avoid, and was proof that having messy relationships with other members of your band and writing catchy songs about them could make you very popular. Its follow up, Tusk, was a different story; a critical and  relatively commercial flop (though yielding a couple of hits), its four sides were dominated by guitarist Lindsey Buckingham's increasingly eccentric musical vision. Often miles away from the lush West Coast sheen of its predecessor, it's an album that doesn't even merit cult status; neither has it been reasessed and hailed a lost masterpiece. Well, not yet anyway.

Which makes it all the more strange that the (admittedly slightly eccentric) Camper Van Beethoven should have chosen to cover the entire album. Recorded in 1987 and conceived on a whim, the project was a source of irritation to the band themselves. After a few days, some members realised it was quite a silly idea perhaps left as such, and the project collapsed. Half finished, some tracks remained as sketches, others recorded later by individual band members.

So a decade and a half later, here are those tapes, cleaned up and reassembled. While you couldn't call this a labour of love, neither is it a demolition job. While some tracks (particularly the Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie tunes) are often cruel deconstructions, there's a sense that the Beethovens warmed to some of their material. For the most part, the original is reconfigured to fit the band's gift for skewed, country and western tinged psychedelia. Sometimes this works beautifully, as on "Save Me A Place", "That's All For Everyone" and "Tusk" (which is actually a bit straighter than the original).

It's also extremely funny, as when the vocal for "Sisters of the Moon" is provided by a Mac of the Apple rather than Fleetwood variety, which at the end of the song starts quoting Shakespeare and Spinal Tap. Or there's the insertion of a few lines from the B-52's "Rock Lobster" into "Not That Funny".

The last thing we hear is one of the band murmuring "ah, that was a bad idea". Not so, chaps...

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