Bentley's Bandstand: Dengue Fever, Cannibal Courtship

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BY BILL BENTLEY

Dengue Fever, Cannibal Courtship, Fantasy Records

The sound of Dengue Fever is like an hallucination, spurred on after spending a week riding the city buses around Los Angeles. Take all those audio elements, throw them in a blender, then run that through a ghetto blaster strapped on top of an ice cream truck in Echo Park. And that’s just the beginning. Cambodian singer Chhom Nimol is a vision in emotional elegance, ready to pull the stops out when she needs to, but also capable of ultimate cool while the band percolates like mad behind her. Singer-guitarist Zac Holtzman is harsher, and sounds like he has heartache fever running through his blood but hasn’t found the right antidote quite yet. Add Magic Band-era horn honkings, a rhythm section pulsing with urban agility and brother Ethan Holtzman’s suave keyboards, and Dengue Fever is capable of deep soul crossed with classy quirkiness.

Chhom Nimol is full of star power frontage, with a voice that can go anywhere. Lyrically the songs are made of mixed metaphors and cool irony, but never cross the line into novelty. That’s important with a band which could be too easily classified as the B-52s on noodles, but instead is way more complex. Just when you think you’ve got them pegged, Nimol will go completely foreign on us and veer off towards a Cambodian holiday, while the group cops a Talking Heads attitude to bring her back to the States. It keeps the tension high on Cannibal Courtship, not to mention laying a surreal foundation underneath everything. Whether it’s “Cement Slippers” or “Kiss of the Bufo Alvarius,” “Sister in the Radio” or “Mr. Bubbles,” there is never a doubt something seriously twisted is going on here.

The next time a jaunt around the world to exotic locales calls, but either the coffers are empty or time just isn’t on your side, consider a trip with Dengue Fever. Inoculations are unnecessary, and there’s a good chance you’ll make it back unscathed. No guarantees, of course, but this is a band sent to tickle the fancy bone inside all of us.

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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