Dengue Fever: Cannibal Courtship Review
Cannibal Courtship, the fifth album by Californian Khmer pop revivalists Dengue Fever, showcases the band’s strengths as well as their weaknesses. On the positive side, the record’s best work occurs when they don’t stray too far from their Southeast Asian pshych/roots, particularly the tunes where Cambodian-born vocalist Chhom Nimol sings in her native language. Tracks like “Uku” sound great when Nimol’s reverb-heavy singing is complimented by the band’s expertly played guitar flourishes and retro keyboard accents. The record’s final two tracks “Mr. Bubbles,” and “Durian Dowry” are probably the best examples of Dengue Fever at their best. The former is a collection of poppy synth hooks played over a strong rhythm, brass, and Nimol’s singing which wanders back and forth from Khmer to English. The latter incorporates some bluesy guitar, sax and organ riffs, sounding a bit like the soundtrack to a 1960’s Cambodian spy romance. Psychedelic lounge instrumental “Kiss of the Bufo Alvarius” is also notably excellent.
On the flip side, some of Cannibal’s more Western oriented pop/rock tunes don’t hit their mark as successfully. The titular single isn’t the most egregious example, but the second track, guitar driven “Cement Slippers,” does sound pretty hokey when Nimol and guitarist Zac Holtzman trade off cheesy non-sequiturs. Similarly Hotzman’s vocal contributions to “2012 (Bury Our Heads)” just doesn’t really hold a candle to a singer like Nimol. Still, there are several good tracks that split the difference between Dengue’s Khmer roots and more modern rock more successfully, among them “Only a Friend,” “Sister in the Radio,” and “Thank you Goodbye.” In the end the record’s quotient of good songs largely tips the scales to the band’s favor. Cannibal Courtship might not be Dengue fever’s greatest album to date, but it’s another solid effort from one of today’s most interesting and unorthodox bands.
— Jon Behm
Dengue Fever will be coming to Minneapolis to perform at the 7th St. Entry on 6/3 – this one shouldn’t be missed!
Cannibal Courtship is available now here
Dengue Fever: Site