Dengue Fever

Dengue Fever

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Despite its rough edges, the debut album by Dengue Fever is an indicator of where pop music is headed, particularly in areas of multicultural urban sprawl. Though Cambodian émigré Chhom Nimol's sinuous vocals dominate each song, Zachary Holtzman (guitar, vocals) plays an equally essential role in defining the band's direction. Retro surf guitar, the throwback psychedelic tone of the Farfisa organ, rhythms on songs like "Pow Pow" that conjure visions of James Bond dancing the Swim in a Hong Kong nightclub, as well as the absence of any post-punk or disco residue, create a sense of time displacement; this music could just as easily have been heard decades ago, long before American demographics had absorbed Asian pop influences. As a result, Dengue Fever also projects a feeling of being heard in another place, through the Asian modalities of its singsong melodies, the reverb that drenches Nimol's tracks and, above all, the fact that every vocal part, including those of the American-bred musicians, is in Khymer. This album matters, though, because of its relevance to a growing audience in the U.S. At long last, years after America tossed the seeds of its pop culture out into the world, the results are blowing back, taking root, and raising fascinating possibilities for what's to come in this newer New World.

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