Dungen, Tio Bitar (Kemado, 2007)

Lots of different styles within the rock genre have come and gone over the years. Every so often, a performer or band tries to revive one of the older styles, with varying degrees of success. The Swedish group Dungen are such an act, bringing psychedelic hard rock and extended hippie jams into the present, with no attempt to modify the old style to make it sound contemporary. Predictably, you have to be a fan of the old style to appreciate the result.

Dungen are a quartet when they perform live, but in the recording studio nearly all of the work is done by the band's principal member, Gustav Ejstes. Ejstes is as devout a disciple of the heavy, psychedelic guitar rock of the late sixties and early seventies as you're likely to find thirty-five years after the fact. Indeed, Dungen's fourth CD Tio Bitar apppears to have been quite deliberately designed to sound just like it could have been made in 1971. The album runs only forty minutes, with two distinct halves of five songs each, just like a typical LP would. If not for the songs on Tio Bitar being in Swedish, they'd fit right in with most of the songs that have enjoyed regular rotation on classic rock radio for decades.

While Ejstes varies the volume from one song to the next, he maintains the psychedelic prog feel throughout the album. The quieter songs feature acoustic guitar, usually accompanied by strings and flute along with some organ and one-note-at-a-time piano riffs. The album's strength comes from its rockers, though. Blistering tracks like "Intro" and "Gör Det Nu" feature heavy guitars plugged in, presumably, to vintage amplifiers to generate feedback effects evoking Jimi Hendrix. By contrast, the power pop of "Du Ska Inte Tro Att Det Ordnar Sig" sound like it comes straight from Big Star's Radio City album. Ejstes makes no attempt to hide where he gets his musical ideas from; if anything, he seems determined to reproduce his favorite recordings.

I enjoyed Tio Bitar quite a bit. It may not be all that original, but as a long-time fan of classic rock who's been listening to lots of other very different things lately, I found this to be a fun breath of fresh air. Still, I really can't recommend this to everybody. If you didn't grow up listening to classic rock radio or don't care for the style, you'll probably sit there wondering what the big deal is. On the other hand, Gustav Ejstes and his band certainly believe the music of the late sixties and early seventies holds up today, and people who are too young to have experienced it, or even to have heard a lot of it on the radio, might just dig the new sound.

Overall Grade: B+

reviewed by Scott

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