I remember reading an interview with The Cardigans, in which they stated that they would never release an album in Swedish, because it’s too awkward a language to write lyrics in. Now, me, I’ve never tried to do it. I don’t speak a word of Swedish, you see. But Dungen seems to have no problem writing albums in Swedish. And God bless him. But I can’t understand a damn thing that Gustav Ejstes is singing. So, unfortunately, I can’t say anything about the lyrics on their albums. For Ta Det Lugnt, that wasn’t so much of a problem, as the rich textures and heavy layers of sound made the atmosphere interesting enough that the lyrics mostly added a strange, exotic ornamentation to it all. But on Stadsvandringar, Dungen’s second album (just reissued by Astralwerks), the lyrics are sort of hard to get around.
Well, okay, so this sounds like I’m getting off on a negative note, which, I assure you, I’m not. But the vocals are much more prominent on this release than on the subsequent wall of sound masterpiece, and unless you know the language, it might be hard to connect to the lyrics on a level other than ornamental. Stadsvandringar, nonetheless, is a very enjoyable record. Less dense and heady, the songs retain a psychedelic edge, but manage to sound fairly traditional by pop standards. There are certainly moments of trippiness (dig the flute solo on “Solen stiger upp Del1 & 2”). And there are groovy rockers, like the excellent “Stock och sten.” Much of this straightforward rock band dynamic comes from the fact that this album is the only one Ejstes recorded with a proper “band,” rather than merely playing everything by himself.
One can’t escape Ejstes’ more central lead singer role here, however, and we’re left to decipher verses like “Visst är det skönt med alla människor.” Yeah, I’m stumped. But, despite this cultural roadblock, there isn’t much to get in the way of enjoying this album. The title track and “Har du vart’ I Stockholm” both have jangly Byrds-y charm in spades. “Sol och Regn” is a gorgeous tune along the lines of the instrumentals on Nick Drake’s Bryter Layter. And “Natten blir dag” is a sweet, dreamy ballad. These are things that any music lover can appreciate.
As this album is a reissue, it’s a look back at Dungen before Ta Det Lugnt. Then, they were a folkier, yet still psych-leaning band. It would be a few years, yet, before they would churn out a masterpiece that would get them recognition across the Atlantic. Fans of that record, however, will find much to love here, though it isn’t quite to that record’s level of “wow.” It’s still pretty darned good though, even if Swedish isn’t your first language.
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Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.