Dengue Fever: Cannibal Courtship

Dengue Fever: Cannibal Courtship

Dengue Fever’s enduring love for an extinct period of Cambodian psychedelic surf-rock never weighs down its fourth album, Cannibal Courtship, but the band’s eccentric lyrical style sometimes does. “Cement Slippers” has a chorus with a New Pornographers-style keyboard hook—one of several welcome power-pop jolts on the album—hampered by verses that repeatedly fall flat as Chhom Nimol and a slop-voiced Zac Holtzman trade dull jokes about a couple having a shitty time together. The chorus of “Thank You Goodbye” (“you’re just another stamp in my passport”) can’t help but sound like a clumsy attempt to make another jet-setting love song like “Tiger Phone Card,” from 2008’s Venus On Earth. But when Nimol sings in her native Khmer and spreads her voice through the slow, eerie “Uku” and “Sister In The Radio,” Dengue Fever’s tiny corner of world music becomes deliriously entrancing again. The images of high-tech missiles on “Family Business” are just black-humored enough to complement the sinister cool of Holtzman’s guitar riff—they can pull off funny here and there—and Nimol’s vocal on the title track conjures Blondie as much as campy seduction. Cannibal Courtship once again proves that Dengue Fever is far more than tacky exotica, even when it can’t shake a few irritating personality tics.

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