Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dengue Fever - 'Venus On Earth' (2008)

I'll admit it. At first I didn't care for this album.

This came as a shock to me, because I was riding a big high when this came out, due to the discovery two months prior of Dengue Fever's last album, 'Escape From Dragon House'. I was a quiver with anticipation for this album.

For those unfamiliar, please... get familiar! They hail from Los Angeles, and feature a lead singer of Cambodian birth. So basically, what you've got is an amazing amalgamation of Cambodian pop, American Rock-n-Roll and a healthy dose of psychedelia, the international language of "whoa." Even better, it's the poppy, Farfisa organ kind of psychedelia... not the "Let's noodle aimlessly on our guitars for 45 or so minutes" kind.

'Escape From Dragon House' was thrilling. It felt like being in a 1960's dubbed spy movie. Surf guitar, swirling horns and organ, and the amazing, exotic vocals of Chhom Nimol. 'Venus on Earth', however, has a decidedly more mellow vibe. After the thrill ride and almost pure ecstasy of 'Dragon House', I think you could see how fella could feel let down.

I didn't give up on this one, though. I am really, really glad I didn't. Even though I was disappointed, I cold tell that Dengue fever had grown. The musician ship was tighter, the melodies stronger. With more listens, I began to appreciate a lot of the strengths that this album was indeed showing off.

While not as wildly as exotic as previous efforts, tracks like the lead off 'Seeing Hands' still manage to conjure an almost pulp-magazine style atmosphere. Also, guitarist/vocalist Zac Holtzman has come into his own a bit. Not just as a musician, but as a vocalist. He manages to stay in the confines of his range, but he pushes those limits perfectly and his voice remains a wonderful foil to Nimol's. The two of them are heartbreaking and believable on 'Tiger Phone Card' and darkly comedic on 'Sober Driver'.

The rhythm section has become rock solid, and the horns are not distracting (ska bands, take notes)... Now what was it I didn't like about this album?

'Venus On Earth' is the definition of a creeper album. Before I knew it, I knew all the songs and even was choosing over Dragon House.

Added bonus - they're coming to my neck of the woods on leap year! I'm so there...

While the obvious joke here would be for me to suggest that you catch Dengue Fever (har har!), I'll just stick to telling you - download/buy/borrow this album! No disappointments. Take it from a man who was formerly disappointed.

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