Mekong Global Surf

Dengue Fever

Venus on Earth (M 80 Music, 2008)

Wickedly original, Dengue Fever’s third album Venus on Earth is an East meets West pop extravaganza, full of girlie vocals and moody rock guitar that’s certainly got the goods on 60s Cambodian pop. With dashes of surf sound goodness and bits of brassy horns I haven’t heard since Annette Funicello hung up fringed bikini and Frankie Avalon ditched his last clambake, Venus on Earth has dusted off the 60s retro sound and spiked their compositions with garage rock, psychedelic rock and western pop influences, even an Iraqi pop song. In making over that feel-good pop sound, Dengue Fever maintains a particularly Cambodian feel with lead singer Chhom Nimol’s dishy vocals.

With brothers and band founders Ethan and Zac Holtzman on keyboards and guitars, David Ralicke on horns, percussionist Paul Dreux Smith, Senon Gaius Williams on bass guitars and special guest percussionist Gordon “Nappy G” Clay, Dengue Fever kick starts Venus on Earth with the funky “Seeing Hands.”With Cambodian rap sliding smoothing into soaring Khmer vocals, Ms. Nimol sizzles against rock guitar and sax line. “Clipped Wings” moves the CD into a more underground sound with some groovy bass and guitar, punctuated by a slippery sax. “Woman in the Shoes” is steeped in the 60s girl group sound with Ms. Nimol’s vocals taking center stage. The instrumental opening of “Sober Driver” with its sultry saxophone has a 007 Bond feel, but adding Nimol’s and Zac Holtzman’s vocals makes a slick duet. The only thing I could possibly say about Ms. Nimol’s soulful vocals on tracks “Monsoon of Perfumes” and “Integratron” is that somewhere Nancy Sinatra is gnashing her teeth. In a true homage to the surf sound, Venus on Earth features instrumental “Oceans of Venus” that’s worthy of any beach flick.

With their new found fame from albums Dengue Fever released in 2003 and Escape from Dragon House released in 2007, Dengue Fever also has been featured in the documentary Sleepwalking Through The Mekong, about the group’s 2005 tour through Cambodia. Making the rounds on the international film festival scene, Sleepwalking Through The Mekong has been met with acclaim and will soon be a DVD release.


Buy Venus on Earth.

Author: TJ Nelson

TJ Nelson is a regular CD reviewer and editor at World Music Central. She is also a fiction writer. Check out her latest book, Chasing Athena’s Shadow.

Set in Pineboro, North Carolina, Chasing Athena’s Shadow follows the adventures of Grace, an adult literacy teacher, as she seeks to solve a long forgotten family mystery. Her charmingly dysfunctional family is of little help in her quest. Along with her best friends, an attractive Mexican teacher and an amiable gay chef, Grace must find the one fading memory that holds the key to why Grace’s great-grandmother, Athena, shot her husband on the courthouse steps in 1931.

Traversing the line between the Old South and New South, Grace will have to dig into the past to uncover Athena’s true crime.