Context may not be everything in rock music, but it counts for a lot. Thus Dungen, a Swedish cult quartet, was able to draw a large crowd Sunday night to the punk-oriented Black Cat for a set of meandering, jazzy rock that in 1976 would have outraged any self-respecting punk. Back then, Dungen's music would have represented the hated mainstream, but today it's just an amusing rivulet of eccentric revivalism.
Dungen's U.S. debut, "Ta Det Lugnt," does include some songs that are almost punchy enough for punk, notably the title tune. The band opened its show with that surging charmer but played only a few others of its kind.
By the third number, singer-guitarist Gustav Ejstes had switched to flute for a 15-minute instrumental that swung between wispy and thumping passages.
Ejstes, who recorded most of Dungen's albums alone, clearly enjoys having a full band, even one that's a little too sloppy to convincingly emulate such hippie-era models as Free, Traffic and King Crimson. The four musicians' limited coordination was highlighted by the fact that they sounded crisper whenever Ejstes abandoned guitar or keyboards to simply sing and smack a tambourine.
Ultimately, Dungen's messiness worked in its favor. If the band wasn't tight enough to do justice to its catchiest songs, it also couldn't play its more grandiose passages with sufficient command to be overbearing. Give these guys a couple more years on the road and they could be so accomplished that they'll outrage some of their current fans.
-- Mark Jenkins