I saw Dungen play recently on their now-finished tour supporting Skit I Allt (apparently a colloquialism meaning “fuck all” in their native Swedish tongue, and a phrase I immediately appreciated when I lived in Ireland), and it struck me that they’ve released six LPs. That’s a hefty career right there. By long player six, Sonic Youth had just released its major-label debut, Goo. Genesis was onto The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. Plenty of great bands never reached that total. This isn’t meant to hold Dungen up to the same measuring stick or meticulously chart its progress but more a reflection that they’ve tended to be taken for granted. Six records is a fairly sizable achievement, and the discography speaks for itself, especially for a band that steadfastly sings in non-English. Though the new record is a bit more laid-back in its approach, it’s still very likable, and listeners familiar with the breakthrough Ta Det Lungt shouldn’t be disappointed.
The members of Dungen didn’t flog the new material mercilessly to promote it; instead, they took an organic approach (no surprise there) and crafted a free-flowing show. The tone was set from the start. Leader Gustav Estjes took his position at the keyboard and played a solo “Det Tar Tid.” He accepted a poster from an audience member and explained that the song title fit perfectly with the effort (it translates as “it takes time”).
Estjes is a multi-faceted player; aside from piano he plays guitar, sings, plays flute and bangs a mean tambourine. He also writes all the songs and lyrics, but this is a far from a one-man band. In fact, proficiency-wise, it’s tough to think of a four-piece that can cover this much ground with such verve. Take “Panda,” for instance. Reine Fiske (on guitar) blazed new trails into our brains with his fluid playing, while the rhythm section of Mattias Gustavsson and Johan Holmegard was as loose, supple and just totally locked on as a duo as any other pair I can think of. “Mina Damer Och Fasaner” took a route that few bands can cling to, still maintaining control amid a deep chugging bass riff, drums playing all over the top of the beat like Ginger Baker or Keith Moon, and a flute line that kept sizable distance from Ian Anderson territory.
This is music that certainly references the past, but is clearly plugged into the present. Had there been pocket translation guides handed out at the door, there would have been plenty of spot-on sing-alongs; instead, we belted out the nearest phonetic approximation. Maybe that Sverige-to-Anglo translation will be a bit truer with American audiences by album No. 8.
The Entrance Band was that rare creature, an opening band that was not only tolerated but outright blew my socks off. The band just plained smoked, taking the best of the broad mantle that is ’60s and ’70s psych and whipping into a brightly colored marmalade. Leader Guy Blakeslee pulled of the Hendrix guitar style (lefty playing a right-handed body) without a touch of embarrassment, throwing down an impressive spray of fret runs, pedal hopping, and weird chord jams. Informed by early Ozzy Osbourne vocal stylings, mid-’60s West Coast flower-power (the trio did an expert rendition of Love’s “A House Is Not A Hotel”) and later 70’s Amon Düül II-dunt, the Entrance Band put on a great set.