Herman Dune – Monument Park (EP Review)

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There’s been a long tradition of musical storytelling.  Bands like “Ben Folds Five”, “The Dresden Dolls” and even “Keane” have been a modern addition to that style, following in the footsteps of the likes of Chuck Berry and Jerry Lewis.  French duo Herman Dune are an inventive niche group in the same mould.

Their new EP Monument Park is based around a song that featured on their “Strange Moose” album that came out last year.  It also has four other tracks, available for the first time and for fans of the band this will be like cat-nip.  But what about those who’ve never listened to Herman Dune before?  Well, read on and I’ll give you an idea.

The title track, which has been heard before, is an old school guitar ballad and has the characteristic Herman Dune sound.  Catchy acoustic guitar is the base for a sweet, catchy ballad which is a toe tappingly enjoyable tune.

Next up is the sixties influenced ‘Shadow of a Doubt’.  Another upbeat tune which wouldn’t be out of place at Woodstock or featuring in a classic road movie.  Bitter-sweet, non rhyming lyrics weave in and out of a catchy chorus and the baseline is a bongo riff, awesome!  The whole song is very reminiscent of the legendary Chuck Berry, one of Dune’s big influences

The slower ‘Wait for the Dead to Live Again’ is a downbeat, meandering tune which is full of the self doubt and sadness that is often in the background of Herman Dune’s song-writing.  The music features sparky, upbeat guitar and a drum and percussion line which is steady but slow paced.

‘Drunk but Not With Wine’ is a reflective, lyrical track that is built around the lyrics and vocals of the lead singer.  A little bit sad and at times bordering on self parody, the song deals with the rarely seen subject of lost love.  The music is the characteristic acoustic guitar and low-fi drums.  At times the lyrics get almost silly, comparing World War Two to life without his, presumably ex, girlfriend.

‘Blessing and A Curse’ closes things out with an upswing of tempo.  Once again lyrics and vocals are the central feature of the song and the music.  A meandering and whimsical story floats out of a steady rock-steady style drum beat.  Crisp piano join in with acoustic guitar and the occasional twinge of electric guitar.

At times Herman Dune almost feel like they are, quite organically, a comedy act.  Their intelligent, unconventional lyrics would be quite at home on “Flight of the Concords”.  But their highly multi-cultural background has given them a distinct voice that separates them from the smug tone of ‘Ben Folds’ or the blandness of ‘Keane’.

Herman Dune are likely to remain a niche act.  Their music is enjoyable and upbeat but in a way that’s hard to define. You couldn’t imagine it featuring in movie soundtracks or adverts and this is probably a good thing.  Herman Dune would be much more at home playing at some hipster party in Brooklyn than drifting through a mall.

But fans of inventive song-writing, clever lyrics and above all else storytelling will definetly take to Herman Dune.  Pull up a chair and have a listen, I think you’ll find this is exactly what you’ve been waiting to hear about.

Richard Hart

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