#79 The Ultimate Solution- The Polyglot Polyculture City-State that is Los Angeles

el camino real front

The Ultimate Solution- Camper Van Beethoven.

The polyglot poly-cultural city state that is Los Angeles.  

Last year Camper Van Beethoven released La Costa Perdida  (loosely “the lost coast”) which is a set of songs about Northern California  (see Northern California Girls or Come Down the Coast as examples).    This year Camper Van Beethoven releases the companion piece to this album “El CaminoReal.”   This time the album thematically focuses on Southern California and Baja California.

Whereas  La Costa Perdida  was a look back at the “back to the country” hippy period of  northern California with references to Jack Kerouac, Richard Brautigan, The Grateful Dead and even The Beach Boy’s  “Big Sur”  period this one is firmly planted in the present and further down the coast in Southern California.

The best way to look at the new album is to draw a contrast between the two. On La Costa Perdida  the ocean is calm, benevolent and feminine; on  El Camino Real  the sea is “filled with darkness, secrets and chemicals.”  The choice of the masculine title subject El Camino Real  as opposed to the feminineLa Costa Perdida was an intentional contrast.  On La Costa Perdida the bucolic rural past is the focus; on El Camino Real it’s the urban polyglot multi-cultural landscape of Southern California that is celebrated.   La Costa Perdida is laid back where El Camino Real is fast paced and frenetic.

Generally when journalists have written about Camper Van Beethoven they have inevitably associated the band with Northern California because of the band’s long residency in Santa Cruz CA.  But it’s often overlooked that the band originally formed in the gritty and rural  “Inland Empire” region of Southern California.  This album is a gentle reminder of the band’s roots.

The album starts with the track  The Ultimate Solution.  Essentially an ode to the City of Los Angeles.  Frommer’s has described Los Angeles as “Less of a melting pot and more of a tossed salad of overlapping cultures.”  This song essentially sums up this view of Los Angeles as the ultimate polycultural American megapolis .

If there were a video to this song it would be a high speed stop action video that took you down vermont from the Hollywood hills through downtown Los Angeles.  There would be stops along the way for  snacks like “Armenian lamb kabobs served in Mayan pickled cabbage tacos”  or  “Filipino style curry udon.”

Alternately you could take a larger east to west cross section of the megapolis and travel from the celebrity suburbs of the far west sunset drive, through downtown Los Angeles all the way out to the far end of the San Gabriel Valley.   On this drive you would encounter large communities, of Russians,  Mexican-Americans, Persians, Samoans, Koreans, El Salvadoreans, Filipinos, Hasidim, Indians, Japanese, Armenians, Arabs, Greeks,  Chinese, Turkish and Afghanis.

I once took a city bus from the Fairfax district all the way down pico and into Boyle Heights with a native Angeleno specifically to experience this aspect of the city.  Oh and to sample the food at various restaurants along the way.

Finally I reference the LAPD “Rampart Division” scandal.  Los Angeles as a true city-state has often operated it’s police department as an almost militarized internal security force.  Sometimes acting more like a La Guardia Civil   than a traditional city police force.   The most bizarre chapter in the LAPD history concerns an anti-gang operation out of the Rampart substation that rumored to have acted as it’s own gang, with it’s own tattoos and spray paint tags.

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The Ultimate Solution

I was living happily

waiting for the world to end

eating pickled cabbage in a taqueria

I was waiting patiently

For the geminids to show

I was staring happily in to the sun

And every day is just like a dive

into the ultimate solution

violins and violence

Samoa town Los Angeles

In Tagalog Korean girls

say Oyster Pearls

are like the Ultimate

Ultimate Solution

Ultimate Solution

I was on a new game show

Dancing with the Rampart squad

everyone had gang tattoos

and designer luggage

Waiting on the El Al Bus

Security was tight that day

Pico and Sepulveda

all the way to Baghdad

And every day’s just like a dive

into the ultimate solution

violins and violence

Somoa town Los Angeles

In Tagalog Korean girls

say Oyster Pearls

are like the Ultimate

Ultimate Solution

Ultimate Solution


© 2014 camper van beethoven music

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