Monday, April 11, 2011

Dengue Fever "Cannibal Courtship"

( When Dengue Fever formed a decade ago they were working a pretty solid (and  by solid I mean excellent)  gimmick: an L.A. band of groovy rock/soul/psyche musicians playing covers of vintage Cambodian rock songs (we took their work for it) fronted by Chhom Nimol, a lovely Cambodian chanteuse with a haunting voice. They took this gimmick every which way to Sunday (making a concert film of a Cambodian tour, curating Cambodian rock compilations, getting more people to listen to tunes sung in Khmer than anyone would have thought possible). But as the years have rolled on the band has introduced English songs, originals, and has ignored molds, crafting music that falls outside the different sonic ghettoes in which they originally placed themselves. What makes their new album so enjoyable, one might even say mesmerizing, is that while moving away from the limitations of gimmickry they have never abandoned the sensibility that says "novelty" is not a dirty word. They don't shy away from absurd lyrics, awesome clichés, knowing riffs on exoticism, and blatant references to everything from No Wave sax skronking, to Hair, to 60s spy movies, to Mayan apocalypse prophecy. Even the AMAZING title track seems to be making a bold, absurdist joke by having a weird love song make sideways references to Khmer Rouge soldiers practicing cannibalism in the 60s. It is this sense of mischief, humor and fun that make even the straightforward tracks (like the non-English jam "Uku") pure joy. "Cannibal Courtship" -- you'll eat it up!

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