'Tuned In' review: California roots inspire camper Van Beethoven

Camper Van Beethoven's 'La Costa Perdida'

Camper Van Beethoven's "La Costa Perdida"

“La Costa Perdida,” Camper Van Beethoven (429)

In the 1980s, Camper Van Beethoven helped guide music out of the vestiges of New Wave and heavy metal with a genre mishmash that set up the advent of alt-rock. And in 1990, the group promptly broke up, just as alt-rock exploded in popularity — though members stayed active, most notably vocalist/guitarist David Lowery with the band Cracker.

Although the alt-rock heyday had passed by the time Camper Van Beethoven resurrected in 1999, the act has soldiered on since then on the fringes of relevance.

The new “La Costa Perdida,” set for release Jan. 22, CVB’s first release in eight years, finds the group gleefully mixing it up in a hodgepodge of sound that doesn’t break ground (or even make sense). But with its members now ranging in age from the late 40s to the early 50s, it’s doubtful the band is trying to set trends.

Instead, CVB pays tribute to its Northern California roots with a mix of psychedelia, jam music and hard rock plus all manner of American (and even Mexican) subgenres. The band members compensate for the lack of continuity with the kind of inviting charm that comes from confident, veteran musicians doing their thing ... Yet the self-indulgence of such noodling around creates numerous dull stretches.

Opening cut “Come Down the Coast” is a promising start, a warm slice of rootsy adult rock driven by sweet guitar and Lowery’s invitation to “come down and see me sometime.” Also, the album is given a late lift from the earthy title track (with the lyric, “I know I look familiar/Brother, you don’t wanna know”) and the alluring finale “A Love for All Time” (“King Neptuve is blue deep in the sea/I’m sure he misses you when you’re out wandering”).

However, most other tracks are a mixed bag. Lowery’s voice is lost in overwrought use of multiple guitars on “You Got to Roll,” for example, and the instrumental-oriented “Summer Days” feels like filler for a cheesy rock opera.

Meanwhile, the dreamy California pop of “Too High for the Love-in” disintegrates into an uneventful jam and then completely falls apart in an abrupt time-signature shift that backdrops the refrain, “Bring to me the anti-venom, and make me a sandwich.”

“La Costa Perdida” is fitfully engaging, but it ultimately proves pointless.

Rating (five possible): 3

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