Dengue Fever and Vinyl!

Dengue Fever's Venus on Earth

Braving the harsh weather and even harsher DC traffic I struck out to see Dengue Fever at the Black Cat last night. I’d heard them interviewed on Fresh Air and was curious to catch their incarnation of 60s-style Cambodian rock. I enjoyed the show. They have an almost campy sensibility to their music that remains intact when they take the stage — a disarming and endearing vibe that made me smile. Sonically the band is dominated by the soaring soprano acrobatics of vocalist Chhom Nimol. Her High-pitched, exceedingly resonate, and distinctly asian voice gives every track an exotic edge. She tended to sing at the top of her range jumping in and out of her head/falsetto register which nicely left the mid-range wide open for the guitar and keyboards. Their rhythm section was also excellent with their very tall bass player being my choice for stand out musician of the night. He grooved great, and with some interesting licks.


One really nice surprise was to find that the band was selling vinyl copies of their album for $20. Yep, a 12″ record but with a twist: Inside each LP was a card that allowed you to download high-quality mp3 versions of all the songs. Clever.

I can’t help but wonder if vinyl might be some sort of salvation for the music biz by serving to “re-commoditize” it if you will. Much as bottled water convinced people to pay for something they could already get for free, vinyl could be marketed as a premium product. It already has a reputation for being sonically superior to digital music. Whether this is true or not is unimportant (tap water regularly trumps bottled in blind taste tests), it’s the perception that matters. I think the public might well be willing to fork over cash for records if they could be convinced that:

  • Vinyl sounds better than digital (which I somewhat agree with)
  • The large album art of an LP is valuable in and of itself and obviates the need for posters (which I strongly agree with)
  • The ritual of playing an LP is inherently more fun than playing digital tracks (which I also strongly agree with)
  • Vinyl-centric artist are generally superior because they strive to fill the entire LP with solid material whereas digital-centric artists shoot for a few “hit” tracks surrounded by filler (Not really sure if I agree with this or not but I think it could become true)

If the recording industry could position the vinyl LP in the same manner Starbucks did the humble cup of coffee then musician’s fortunes might brighten considerably.

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