We, the music-listening public, find ourselves in the midst of the incubatory period of a classic hard rock revival. On paper, this seems like a great idea, since so much of the honest power of '60s and '70s hard rock is lost in the current indie punk-pop craze (to steal from the title of a new Foo Fighters song, "Cheer up, boys - your makeup is running"). The results so far, however, have been less than stellar.
At the forefront of this new semi-sensation is Wolfmother, the now wildly popular Black Sabbath wannabes who steal chord progressions straight from Paranoid and have track titles that would make Robert Plant - at his most whimsical and mystical - snicker quietly to himself. Then there are Priestess and The Sword, bands who can't even claim to borrow straight from the source, and in fact are only riding the coattails of Wolfmother's success.
Even Rose Hill Drive, who in an effort to try to avoid this suddenly-cliché sub-genre lean more towards a classic blues formula, find themselves depending too much on Cream and Blind Faith-era Eric Clapton.
And yet, amongst all this phoniness, there stands one individual who actually gets it. He doesn't hail from London or Liverpool or even Detroit. He's from Sweden.
Gustav Ejstes, who grew up in a 17th century farmhouse in Vastergotland, Sweden, is the sole driving force behind up-and-coming rock outfit Dungen (pronounced dune-yen), a band that doesn't just try to emulate the striking sounds of '60s psychedelia and '70s hard rock; it embodies them with a sincerity unseen anywhere else in music.
Ejstes was only recently a stranger to classic rock. In fact, when he first discovered mainstream American music, it was in the form of hip-hop. A fan of Public Enemy and NWA, Ejstes was fascinated by the idea of sampling old songs and remixing them for a fresh perspective. It was here that he began to discover rock gods like Jimi Hendrix and Clapton. After a few failed attempts in the hip-hop genre, Ejstes was determined to create music like the acid-toned legends of decades past all by himself. Playing nearly every instrument his songs required, Ejstes, as Dungen, released three full-length albums, the most recent of which, Tio Bitar, was put out in May 2007 to almost unanimous critical acclaim.
Tio Bitar is psychedelia in the purest sense. Opening seemingly mid-jam, the first track, "Intro," is a concentrated blast of fuzz and feedback as an electric guitar lashes into the listener's ears before settling in the background, while a single, echoing flute takes over the sonic acrobatics. The album is more than just an accolade to classic rock, though. Ejstes doesn't forget his own influences, and the album is highlighted by Swedish folk and Middle-Eastern flavors, most notably on the flute and violin-led "C Visar Vagen." The second track, "Familj," is one of Dungen's highlights; frilled with jazz, it brings to mind British trip-hop duo Zero 7.
Dungen's approach to music is invaluable in a time when paying penitence to the musical gods of yore has become intolerably misguided and thoughtless. Playing at highly-publicized festivals like Bonnaroo has added to the one-man band's rising stock: Dungen is sure to be a name to remember - and pronounce correctly - in the next few years.