EVERYTHING ABOUT DUNGEN is a Rorschach test. From the name (seriously, Dungeon? Doonyen? Doongin? Who knows!) to their creepy Swedish vocals to their music, a pitch-perfect reproduction of late '60s psyche rock that still sounds oddly modern. More than anything, it's this latter quality—well, aside from the fact that they rock it so fucking hard—that makes them the find of the decade.
Dungen master Gustav Ejstes has been cranking out psychedelic shit since 2001, recording most of the instruments himself. He scored some success in his home country, but it wasn't until last year, when America got its hands on the killer Ta Det Lugnt that Dungen blew up globally.
On its own, the first track from Ta Det Lugnt, "Panda," could earn Ejstes a role as psyche laureate of the looming New World Order. The drum fill that kicks off the track barely prepares you for the magic carpet ride to motherfucking Valhalla that the song becomes. Guitars and fuzzed-out bass burst through, accompanied by the most soaring, indecipherable vocals you'll ever hear outside of an Os Mutantes record. By the time you realize what's happened, you've swum through a lake of fire, eaten mushrooms with an army of dead Vikings, discovered a new land west of the great ocean, died on the battlefield from a hammer blow to the skull, and been given an honorable sendoff into the sea aboard a ship that's been set aflame.
I mean, that's what I think Ejstes is saying. I don't actually have any idea what the song's about. It's called "Panda," for shit's sake. Maybe the song, with its impossibly anthemic crescendo after impossibly anthemic crescendo, is about the plight of a cuddly, yet reproductively inept, mammal that loves bamboo shoots. But that's the thing—the song, as with all of Dungen's songs, is totally open for English speakers to interpret. (Although I'm pretty sure Ejstes uses a Swedish variation of "I am the MAAAAAAN" during the chorus.)
Sonically, Dungen is nearly indistinguishable from their forgotten-for-decades predecessors—what with all the vintage equipment, reverb, and sweet, sweet fuzz. They're the kind of band that, had they existed 40 years ago, would have been forgotten to the dustbins of time by all but a few hardcore fans—and then unearthed decades later just to make David Byrne poop in his Luaka Bop-logoed hat.
And therein lies Dungen's only flaw. They're simply too good at aping the sounds of old. Even if psychedelic rock is currently undergoing a tight-pants revival, how long can the fetishizing last? And when it goes the way of dance punk, where will that leave purists like Dungen? Will they end up next to the Darkness in some sort of genre-tribute band hall of shame?
The alternative—Dungen updating their sound to be more "modern"—is just as unthinkable, especially if done as embarrassingly as Swedish bands are wont to do (The Hives, anyone?). In the meantime, the only thing you need to worry about is where you're going to find a new face after Dungen leaves yours in a bubbling pile on the Doug Fir floor.