Album Reviews

Herman Dune – Next Year In Zion

(City Slang) UK release date: 13 October 2008

Gloopy hot chocolate on a crispy cold day, kittens jumping after butterflies, ’80-something sweethearts holding hands as they stroll down the promenade…and Herman Dune � all things to warm the cockles of your soul. Soppy, yes, but there’s no other way to describe the Parisian duo � singer David-Ikar Human Dune and drummer Neman Herman Dune.

Next Year in Zion is not packed with tunes that will change the face of pop music as we know it and David-Ivar’s singing will not knock Leona Lewis from the top of the Billboard Charts, but you can’t help but love everything about this album.

An odd production and melodies as simple as nursery rhymes don’t detract from the sweetness. The baby-ish lyrics can’t be blamed on the language barrier as surely they must have developed a bit of a vocabulary after five official (and many more unofficial) albums. From the absolute wonder of being kissed on the mouth, or the wondrous repetition of being bitten by a snake and stung by a bee – it brings a smile to your face.

I couldn’t disagree more with the duo’s new label City Slang when it says this is Herman Dune all grown up with their intricately constructed pop songs. It’s the complete opposite. It’s about childlike simplicity, space to hear the beautiful South American trumpets, the grains in a humble shaker, the clattering of a castanet and every bump on the woody neck of a bass.

Maybe it’s like those early Neil Young or Dylan days, where the songs were so uncluttered and to the point, they were genius. Each song is given an extra dimension by the duo’s musical friends, especially the backing vocals of The Babyskins and horns by the John Natchez Bourbon Horn players on loan from Beirut and Arcade Fire.

But it’s still the quirkiness and effortlessness that stands out, like My Baby Is Afraid of Sharks and its ’60s-esq Walk On By intro, merging into the beautiful tale that suggests companionship can remove all fear � not such an irrational fear when you hear the poor girl featured was attacked by a maniac with a baseball bat. David-Ikar threw that one in when you weren’t expecting it! Then there’s the reggae feel of the title track, which is so soft, it’s like holiday hotel lounge music with a twist.

And the best, Someone Like Me � starting like a melancholic, bitter Plastic Ono Lennon; a minor tone with an eerie sense of danger, yet lyrics about nesting swallows: “I saw the little ones, their feathers are greasy, I pictured their life and I thought it was easy”. He’s right, they do just sit there and squeak, while the mothers come back with insects in her beak. Even with these chuckle-a-plenty moments the magic remains, as these painted pictures are similes of real deepness, conveyed in what can only be described as sheer sweetness.

Herman Dune must have been a strange choice of support for the likes of Arcade Fire and The Kooks � it’s a marmite sound, love it or hate it, there’s nothing epic about it and no sing-a-long choruses. This is an album for the listener, and those who really get it will be left grinning for days.

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More on Herman Dune
Herman Dune – Strange Moosic
Herman Dune @ Scala, London
Herman Dune – Next Year In Zion
Herman Dune – Giant