Dungen : En är för mycket och tusen aldrig nog

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It’s hard to construct an album more specifically, aesthetically up my alley than Dungen‘s En är för mycket och tusen aldrig nog. While I am a fierce devourer of death metal, that most delicious and succulent of musics, its equal in my eyes is progressive rock, that sparkling diamond that glitters sublimely above all great things. While prog is often pigeonholed to some as 20-plus minute epics, wonky time-signatures and abstruse lyrical and melodic movement, all things that are as absolutely excellent as they are true to some degree, it’s important to keep in mind its emergence as a specific type of post-psychedelic music. Dungen decidedly doesn’t play the kinds of long and winding symphonic epics of Yes or the vast pastoral sweeps of Genesis nor the skronky evil of groups like Magma or King Crimson.

Instead, their eye falls closer to the same type of material that Once and Future Band has dabbled in, that wondrous prog pop of performers like Todd Rundgren, Electric Prunes, Small Faces and Pretty Things. Their keening, melodic approach to prog rock and prog pop leans very London on the sound. You can practically see swirling paisley patterns, fringed shirts and the like, all very happening. But they are wise enough as well to pinch little bits from all the great neo-psychedelia movements that followed, included that certain drum machine lope of Madchester mirrored here by a real drummer. You may still close your eyes and immediately see the watercolors of album covers by groups like Camel, Eloy or Nektar but Dungen are keen to sneak in a couple modernizations into those forms, producing a record that sounds closer to how one might remember those records of yore rather than a perfect recapitulation of them.

This leads to the split in the road that most listeners will find themselves coming to. Dungen’s intent is clearly to celebrate this particular mode of psychedelic and progressive music, the kind that by the decades end of its origin would have been flattened into AOR and soft rock but still maintained an edge of adventure and camp to it. Compound this with the fact that En är för mycket och tusen aldrig nog does little to specifically differentiate itself from previous Dungen records and those who are not fans of this style will likely find little here to change their mind. I’m not a big fan of labeling groups knowingly retro, even if that’s the intent; without boring you, I’ve read too much of certain types of theory books that either permanently empowered or else totally ruined my brain, one or the other, and now I see these recapitulations of the past as necessarily different by being enacted in the present rather than the past. It means something different that Dungen, a band far removed from the initial scenes that gave birth to this music, created it and released it to the world than the largely European bands this calls back to. But, admittedly, for many this notion simply won’t be enough, and there’s little that can be said to dissuade that view.

For those still remaining, this is a cogent and coherent collection of songs in this style. It won’t top any lists, nor will it dislodge even your favorite Dungen records (4 and Tio bitar, for the record) from an internal ranking, but these songs certainly scratch an itch that we must admit largely doesn’t get scratched these days. Even in the worlds of neo-psychedelia and retro-oriented rock groups, this type of material is largely overlooked. Where are the Todd Rundgren clones, I ask? Give them unto me. Give me a wizard, a true star, your runts and utopias, something, anything. But even I wish there were a couple pieces here that stretched the bounds a bit, recontextualized the material here, like a longer suite or a spacier track. The cuts here lean toward the same type of mold, a trait that works perfectly for (thinking in this style) the early classic records of Elton John but for this kind of recapitulation need a bit more oomph. En är för mycket och tusen aldrig nog is certainly a good record and, given their exciting rescoring of the silent film Haxan from a few years ago, a return to form record is certainly not a bad thing. It’s just hard to hear such cutting-edge hybrids of prog and psychedelia across the eras such as “Var Har Du Varit?” and not want more of that.

Label: Mexican Summer

Year: 2022

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