Skit I Allt means “Fuck It All,” but not in a mean way. Breezy, dreamy and ingratiating, it’s more of a shrugging, grinning “what the fuck, man” than a defiant middle finger salute. Dungen bandleader Gustav Ejstes just wants to do what he wants to do, kind of like XTC when they adopted the pseudonym Dukes Of Stratosphear, and made like their 1960s heroes. In fact, there are moments where Dungen sound a lot like the Dukes would have if they’d added a bit more ’70s radio rock and prog to the mix.
But that’s what they are after, and they sound pretty happy with it. It’s an alluring sound; Skit I Allt feels like an invitation to say fuck it to the homework, yard work, or just plane work, and to hit the road for a weekend getaway. Since Ejstes sings exclusively in Swedish, it’s easy to switch off one’s brain and line up behind him in a convoy into pop-music escape territory. The way the opening instrumental “Vara Snabb” ascends from a cushion of cymbal strikes through a spiral of Duane Eddy-like guitar licks to a fluffy cloud of flute tones practically begs to be heard as you wind around the on-ramp and hit the road, pointing your nose in the direction of a bit of R ‘n’ R.
Move into the next song “Min Enda Vän” and the highway stretches before you; the crisp beats slip by like miles markers, and Ejstes’s strings and flute slide over a central piano figure like scraps of cloud on a partly sunny day. Ejstes is back to playing the bulk of the music himself after a one-record dalliance with letting the band be a band. Guitar hero Reine Fiske still sprays Electric Prunes-meets-Jimi Hendrix fuzz out of the cracks in the tunes, but he shows up exactly where Ejstes places him; he’s like a found object glued onto the master’s canvas, or maybe just John McLaughlin stapled onto Miles Davis’s Live Evil band. The second song “Brallor” has some of Fiske’s satisfyingly fat lead guitar, which in tandem with a tougher groove generates a vibe like that moment when you start seeing farms and open up the throttle. But the voices of Ejstes and guest singer Anna Järvinen fold together like feather quilt and flannel sheets, keeping things soft and cozy.
The rest of the record builds on this opening one-two, alternating softly swaggering rock tunes with plush, slightly tricky instrumentals with impressive cohesion. Six years ago, Dungen were beneficiaries of a hyperbolic Pitchfork review, which turned their LP Ta Det Lugnt into a fluke hit. It’s to Ejstes credit that he’s stayed his course, continuing to pull together nostalgic and post-millennial sounds instead of chasing a mass audience that he probably couldn’t have kept anyway; how many households need more than one Swedish prog-pop record? The pay-off is that by making the records he wants, he’s making better ones now.