Dengue Fever @ Neumos
January 10, 2009
By Tim Basaraba
Don’t worry, Seattle. I’ve been listening to Dengue Fever for more than a year and have yet to catch a fever or experience bladder problems, constant headaches, eye pain, severe dizziness or a loss of appetite. What I have noticed is a new appreciation for the Khmer language (especially when crooned by Chhom Nimol) and an interest in the origins of this unique LA band/s psychedelic sound.
When it comes to music that my father urges me to check out, I usually start with the artist’s most recent release and work backwards… if I’m so inclined. After just one listen to 2008’s Venus On Earth, I knew I would have to own Dengue Fever’s three previous albums.
The guitars, though sometimes buried behind Chhom’s beautiful voice, are the central aspect of the Dengue Fever sound. Quirky, deliberate and clear, it’s a sound and skill missing from most of the bands I’ve been obsessed with lately.Which is to say these kids know their instruments and are much more proficient than many of today’s popular Indie bands, some of whom think its better to be cool, then to be good.
Dengue Fever is what this century’s rock ‘n roll needs – a band that respects the roots of rock while simultaneously pushing the genre forward with exciting new sounds.The band simply has no fear. They use organs, horns and distorted guitar together to form a sound I can only describe as “original.” Original only if you are a simpleton like me, though. Little did I know that Dengue Fever’s inception was largely due to a love for Cambodian rock from the 60’s and early 70’s. In fact, their first album consists largely of tributes to artists from this movement like Sinn Sisamouth, Pan Ron, and Ros Sereysothea.
These revelations and other more disturbing events concerning the Khmer Rouge are made apparent upon viewing Dengue’s 2009 release Sleepwalking Through the Mekong. This new album not only included 17 mostly new songs it also included the Documentary Sleepwalking Through the Mekong which chronicles the bands journey to Cambodia in 2005.
For those who need more motivation to traverse the streets of Capitol Hill to see Dengue Fever with Lushy and Darek Mazzone (KEXP Wo Pop) at Neumos, try this. When you see her take the stage you will no doubt realize Chhom Nimol is beautiful. When she sings her first note you will realize that true beauty comes from the strength and conviction in her voice as she honors those that have come before her in the awe inspiring language of Khmer. It’s a truly powerful and otherworldly experience.