Summer update: No drugs required
If you want to get high but would prefer not to have nasty flashbacks or to list a felony on employment applications, then Tio Bitar, the latest from Swedish neo-psych rockers Dungen, is the only hit you need to score.
It is said that Dungen front man Gustav Ejstes’s mother gave him a copy of Jimi Hendrix’s Are you Experienced? at the age of eight. This is a sugar-coated anecdote for the press. Jimi Hendrix is Gustav Ejstes’s mother.
Swedish for “10 pieces,” Tio Bitar is an album of 10 perfectly crafted, psychedelic mind-nuggets.
Tio Bitar is a glorious journey through time, starting in a gentlemen’s lounge in the seedy part of town, making a stop at a Vietnam protest, then at a Kentucky hoe-down, a Spanish — no, Indian — village, a Stockholm market, a child’s piano recital, and, finally, at a Russian state funeral.
Sirens open the first eight seconds of the album, but they provide little warning for the onslaught of sound — beautiful, almost-incomprehensibly distorted guitar licks, incessant bass rhythm, and machine-gun drums. Sensory overload. Are my ears bleeding? No? Okay.
“Familj” manages to fuse musical styles from two different decades to make a song that would be just as fitting in 1967 or 1977 as it is in 2007. Switching between an understated lounge tune and an uplifting pop song, I find myself wanting to sing along. But I can’t; the whole album is performed in Swedish.
Subtract one Swedish singer, replace with one bearded Texan, and “Gör Det Nu” could easily have made Bubble Puppy a two-hit wonder in 1969.
At first, “Mon Amour” sounds like it could be a Swedish-language single from mid-'90s upbeat alternative group Supergrass. Two minutes and 30 seconds later, happy guitar pop dissolves into four minutes of mind-bending hard psychedelia. At the song’s end, I swear I’ve seen Jim Morrison, Jerry Garcia, and Jimi Hendrix. And we played bocce.
Paranoia finally sets in with “Ett Skål Att Trivas.” Impending doom. I cannot hear the warnings. Language barrier.
Wait. Where am I? Was that real?
Everywhere. And yes, it is real.
For a foreign album released 40 years after the American psychedelia began, you would not know it, lest the Swedish lyrics and a disc not playable on any turntable should suggest otherwise. Dungen pays homage to the heroes of that era in bits and pieces — a borrowed Jefferson Airplane guitar riff here, and some Doors organ/electric piano there, and Jethro Tull flute all around. While no previous group has ever fully embodied the entirety of the psychedelic genre, many have died trying — recording several mediocre albums, breaking up and getting back together a couple of times, not to mention a few stints of rehab. With Tio Bitar, Dungen has managed to fully capture the entire movement 1967-1971 in 10 songs.
It’s a beautiful thing.