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Get to Know the Wild Psychedelic Rock of Mexico’s Los Dug Dug’s

The language of psychedelic rock isn't quite universal, but the band's four albums suggest it's close enough

There’s no such thing as a universal language. Polish ophthalmologist L.L. Zamenhof proposed that Esperanto, the language he constructed, be the shared tongue to help bridge the global gap, but that never caught on despite being used in the 1966 b-movie Incubus, starring William Shatner. But there are a few things that translate easily across distant cultures: emojis, pickled vegetables, and psychedelic rock.

Admittedly, that last one is a little anachronistic, but it’s still true. Back in the ‘60s when artists like The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Cream were soundtracking a cultural movement, the sonic elements and chemical additives that fueled their music spread across the globe. Brazil had the tropicália movement, which paired guitar fuzz with samba rhythms and a message of protest against the military-led government. Cambodia had a thriving psych-rock scene in the ‘60s and ‘70s, which met resistance by the Khmer Rouge government, as told in the recent production of Cambodian Rock Band. And Mexico had Los Dug Dug’s, a fiery and exciting band of acid rock iconoclasts—and they’re still going.

Los Dug Dug’s earned their claim to fame by being the first Mexican rock group to sing in English (though they mostly sang in their native Spanish) and to also cover The Beatles. But all it takes is one listen to their fuzzy, epic psych-rock jams to understand their appeal. The best starting point for newcomers to the band is their 1973 album Smog, one of four albums released during their career, all of them well worth exploring. Smog, however, essentially comprises a back-to-back sequence of stellar rock ‘n’ roll songs, vintage in sound but featuring the kind of aesthetics that would no doubt appeal to listeners of contemporary artists like Tame Impala, Ty Segall and King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.

Take the title track, for instance, which is loaded with a raw, driving guitar sound but is even more notable for a very un-rock ‘n’ roll element: flute. It’s a delight to listen to, but true to the title, “Smog,” its themes remain relevant today, nearly 50 years later, with fretful lyrics about the state of pollution. There’s a heavier groove to “I Don’t Care (Yo No Sé)” that rivals early Black Sabbath in sheer, raw power, and “Cuál es tu Nombre” is, one of the catchiest rock songs of the era, whether or not you speak the language.

Now in their seventies, the members of Los Dug Dug’s are still stirring up a mighty ruckus, bringing their swirling, wild psychedelia to younger generations and new stages, many of whom weren’t even alive when the first wave of psych-rock drenched the globe in acid. (Like me—I was born in the ‘80s.) There’s no better time than the present to discover another chapter in one of rock music’s most significant stories. But, of course, there’s no reason to stop here. With more labels reissuing hard-to-find records from around the world in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and fewer barriers to finding them, there’s never been a better time to get an education in global psych. Los Dug Dug’s just happen to be an excellent place to start.

Los Dug Dug’s

Soda Bar

January 25

Other Recommended Shows This Week:

Raphael Saadiq, Jamila Woods (January 23, House of Blues): Raphael Saadiq is one of the best R&B artists of our time. Back in the ‘90s, he performed as a member of Tony Toni Toné, later striking a solo career of his own with even more impressive results. Albums like The Way I See It display how seamlessly he combines different eras of pop music—neo-soul with vintage ‘60s and ‘70s aesthetics—and his songs are simply a delight to hear. Get there early for Jamila Woods, who I wrote about in this space last year and who’s making some of the best music of any genre these days.

The Midnight Pine (January 27, The Casbah): If you’ve been going to see shows in San Diego during the past decade and somehow haven’t seen The Midnight Pine yet, you’re missing out. The band’s members are all involved with other projects, and if you’ve heard the upbeat punk-pop of vocalist Shelbi Bennett’s other band The Havnauts, the more spacious and earthy folk and Americana of The Midnight Pine might come as a surprise. But there’s a reason I named their 2014 album Buried as my favorite local album of 2014.

Fistfights With Wolves, Belladon (January 30, Music Box): Belladon is a San Diego band to watch, balancing intoxicating synth-pop songs with gorgeous vocal harmonies. And they’re celebrating the release of their debut album at this show, which also features progressive rock group Fistfights With Wolves. It’s a diverse lineup, but it’s guaranteed to be a thrilling night.

The San Diego music scene lost a beloved voice this week. Alberto Jurado, vocalist of Death Eyes, passed away due to heart complications, and his loud, lively presence will be missed. A fundraiser is being held at Small Bar on Sunday, January 26, to help his family with funeral and other unforseen expenses.

Get to Know the Wild Psychedelic Rock of Mexico’s Los Dug Dug’s

By Jeff Terich

Jeff Terich is the music critic behind the blog The Setlist. His writing has been published in Stereogum, Bandcamp Daily, American Songwriter, Fodor's and Vinyl Me Please.

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