Rhythm & Views 

Dengue Fever

Shades of Yoko Ono! And believe it or not, that's a good thing. Right from the get-go with "Seeing Hands," I had a visceral reaction that made me smile, remembering Yoko's unappreciated (and post-primal-scream) work on the last two John Lennon LPs, Double Fantasy and Milk and Honey.

Cambodian-born lead vocalist Chhom Nimol is passionate, tuneful and articulate throughout most of this album, singing in English as well as her native tongue. Somehow, she and the band manage to meld several different influences (jazz, '70s pop and European rock), creating an album that draws from many stylistic and unexpected corners.

Ironically, it's her harmony and dual vocal work with guitarist and songwriter Zac Holtzman that best showcases the band, as in "Tiger Phone Card." With an infectious call-and-response hook, it's almost like having a psychedelic Jesus Christ Superstar meeting with Jerome, Ariz.'s Major Lingo. These tunes are well-crafted and well-produced, telling stories with instruments as well as words. Every instrument is given great attention to detail, allowing the parts to be showcased in the best possible way.

Additional influences include the Ventures ("Oceans of Venus"), while the Farfisa organ conjures images of mid-'60s pop until the guitar and horns kick in, giving it all an intelligent, contemporary sound. While not everything works all of the time, this is heady stuff for discerning listeners.

More by Jim Lipson


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