Dengue Fever
"Venus on Earth"

(M80 2008)Dengue Fever - Venus on Earth

"Venus on Earth" is the 2008 release from the California-based, Cambodian-flavored, surf lounge pop band Dengue Fever. Nine of the eleven songs feature lyrics sung like a sugar plum siren in Khmer, the native language of their impish female singer, Chhom Nimol. The instrumentation is broad, like parts of the Mekong River. Dimly lit rhythms punctured by paper lantern guitars and keyboards, spiced with smoky horns and an occasional yellow butterfly flute.

The stand out dynamo of the group is Nimol. Some singers can sound extra sultry and exotic in their own language, only to be revealed as a bit too thin in English. When she does incorporate English, it's even easier to appreciate her kinetic range and alluring delivery.

The surf influence is there, but it's far more "Pipeline" than "Wipeout." It's the sound of waves gently rolling up on a beach as the pink and blue sunset bleeds across the sky.

Guitar player Zac Holtzman sings duets in English with Nimol on both "Tiger Phone Card" and "Sober Driver," but his voice seems a weak foil for hers. Think of a less interesting David Byrne, complete with that light quiver but with none of the manic charm.

The lyrics that are in English on "Venus on Earth" stay mostly in the pedestrian lane. The exceptions are some nihilistic love dreams in the break out "Woman in the Shoes." The band comes alive the most on this song, with all the instruments bouncing like a kite flying over pastel colored sea shells. And what ever words fall like tears from Nimol's lips in the achingly haunting "Monsoon of Perfume," there's no question she means them.

B+

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