There have been a couple of times in the history of this blog that I have attempted to capture the silent relief that hangs in the band hall after the school year has ended. That stillness is quickly dispelled, however, by the long checklist of things that need to be done to actually wrap up the year and prepare for the next. This list seems daunting at first, but the good news is that these are mostly solitary activities, which means I can provide my own soundtrack without fear of annoying anyone. This year, I am blaring Dungen’s Allas Sak as I count instruments in my new band hall.
When I first discovered Dungen in 2006, I was immediately impressed with their unique blend of psychedelic, progressive, and classic rock. They were able to evoke both dreamy wash of The Moody Blues and the muscular groove of Led Zeppelin, but effortlessly dodged derivation by way of their impressive tunefulness and musicality. When I picked up Allas Sak in 2015 on a whim at End of an Ear Records, I was as impressed as ever. It was more of the same great retro psychedelia that I remembered them doing.
Herein like the paradox, however, of Dungen. There is a sense of sameness to their work. On the one hand, it's all great, but superficially, there are relatively few surprises once the initial shock of how good they are wears off. To get into their innovations from album to album takes investment, and sadly in 2015 I just didn’t invest. I shelved Allas Sak with the intention of coming back to it. This took over two years.
Revisiting Allas Sak has reignited my admiration for Dungen, which is tempered by the guilty admission that I don’t give them the credit that they deserve. They really do have something going on, especially on this album. If you are tired of struggling with the very real possibility that The Flaming Lips have jumped the shark, Dungen may be the cure. There are an abundance of riffs and soaring atmospherics and guitar, all of which are navigated with tasteful musicianship that rivals Pink Floyd's best work.
The elephant in the room, of course, is that when they aren't creating deeply melodic instrumentals, the band boldly insists on singing in their native tongue. While I agree that they could be singing in total gibberish and I would still love them, I do have the somewhat selfish sense that gaining an understanding of their lyrics would deepen my appreciation for their music. I don’t want him to sing a single word of English, however, because that would dramatically change Dungen’s identity. Conversely, I don't really want to learn Swedish just to understand their lyrics, so I guess we are at a cultural impasse there.
Allas Sak is echoing down the empty halls on the cusp of what has been one of the most difficult school years I've had in a long time. Don’t misunderstand - the new job has been good. Things are more positive in my professional life than they were previously, and there is the sense that they will get better. Still, restarting this program has been stressful. Still things aren't going to lighten up too much with a third child being born in a couple of weeks, but at least I won't be moving. Or trying to start a new program. Or trying to figure out how to make the program that I'm working in better. For just a few weeks I'll have a bit of a respite to really focus in on what is really important to me - my family.