It’s romantic, simpleminded, and ultimately self-defeating to equate authenticity exclusively with amateurism, and though the musicians in Camper Van Beethoven have made their most unique, “natural” and compelling music as hard-core amateurists, they’re also smart and honest enough to face the facts: By now, they know how to play their instruments pretty damn well. So, on their latest release, Our Revolutionary Sweetheart, they have gone from playing a slovenly and near-absurdist mix of world folk musics–every song either with fanciful lyrics or none at all–to playing a more traditional though still eclectic brand of well-constructed folk rock, nearly every song a more-or-less coherent story about relationships, life attitudes, and subcultural “types.” On the one hand, they’ve lost much of their slippery, offhand charm; on the other, they’ve never exploited their great songwriting talents better. In the end, it’s not for nothing that one of the best songs off the new record is called “Never Go Back.” Today, 2 PM, Rose Records, 3259 N. Ashland; 880-0280. Tonight, 7:30 PM, Cabaret Metro, 3730 N. Clark; 549-0203.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Melanie Nissen.