The Weekly Jive

Posted January 24, 2008 in Music

Dengue Fever Venus on Earth (M80 Music)

If nothing else, this third album by Dengue Fever proves to the world that personal fetishes, if properly harnessed, can become fruitions. Brothers Zac and Ethan Holtzman got themselves addicted to ’60s Cambodian pop music early this millennium and combed the LA-circuit for a Cambodian chanteuse to place up front of the maddest Khmer rock music since the delirium of Pol Pot set in. They sought out Chhom Nimol, former singer to Cambodia’s King and Queen, and in the first album (2003’s eponymous) she needed a translator to understand the lyrics Zac was penning—but her voice was soon rinsing over the kookiest mix of horns, fuzz, keys, jangle and guitars ever attempted by a set of Echo Park hobos with a quixotic center of Eastern grace. On Venus Chhom’s come around to singing a few of the tracks in English and these are straight Olivia-Newton John (minus schmaltz), yet it’s that familiar Khmer where all her secrets are kept, just as Edith Piaf’s songs (less sick scarecrow) were best left to the imaginations of this country’s monoglot audiences. Venus solidifies what we already know: that Dengue Fever is rock music’s global underground. (Chuck Mindenhall)


Dead Meadow—Old Growth (Matador)

Talk about a spot-on record title—the latest from D.C.’s Dead Meadow plants its stoner rock and astral-travel psychedelic roots deep in the mid-’70s vinyl collection of your older siblings or parents, and the days when mighty riffs, punishing rhythms and H.P. Lovecraft allusions roamed the musical landscape virtually unchallenged. “Ain’t Got Nothing (To Go Wrong)” kicks it off with sludgy Sabbath riffs before bridging to an up-tempo, wah-wah pedal space-jam that Deep Purple could have penned. It’s a template for the heavy cuts, and a showcase for Jason Simon’s considerable lead-guitar chops. “Till Kingdom Come” may be the most overt throwback: mammoth twin guitar lines, sinewy bass and massive drums propelling mythological themes that still carry weight in today’s dark times. “I’m Gone” and “Keep On Walking” tilt a bit more Crazy Horse twang, while the acoustic “Down Here” and sitar-driven, Eastern-flavored “Seven Seers” serve as effective sonic contrast. Old Growth doesn’t break new ground, but it does prove that, in Dead Meadow’s more-than-capable hands, there’s plenty of fertility left in the old hard rock forest yet. (John Schacht)


The OaKs—Songs For Waiting ()

Like the pink-haired anarcho-vegan girlfriend you had in high school, The OaKs aren’t a band so much as a self-contained movement. Founding member Ryan Costello spent two years in Afghanistan, from 2003 to 2005, teaching the county’s returning refugees sustainable farming techniques, education, hygiene and nutrition for Global Hope Network International, and even donated half the profits of their first album—Our Fathers and the Things They Left Behind—to the charity. Their follow-up release is every bit Our Father’s equal, with it’s plodding harmonics and spacey synth-sounds juxtaposed with the folksy twang of the band’s acoustic guitars and old-tyme street corner crooning. But much like that high school girlfriend, the album refuses to go all the way. While the band has matured a lot since Our Fathers, the songs never quite reach a climaxthey bring you right up to the edge and leave you there. Which is good enough to satisfy for a while, but can’t help leaving you wanting more. (Phil Fuller)


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