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South of the border surprise

Los Dug Dug's. Or, Dug Dug's for short. I didn't know anything about them, but thanks to Anopheles Records and their mail order, I do now. I purchased their first record solely for the name and the description provided by Karl Ikola on his inventory e-mail, which in short described the group's self-titled "monster fuzz" debut as "a must". I know, it's not much to go on, but I had a hunch. And I was right.

Los Dug Dug's was originally released in 1971, and served as the full-length debut for these psychedelic garage rockers from Mexico. For a more extensive history of the band, see this. But, long story shorter, the group began making a name for itself as teenagers playing the strip in Tijuana in 1966. They picked up a few gigs across the border in the States, and smuggled the sounds of American and British rock and roll back with them. The influence of outsider music went beyond simply chords and attitude--Los Dug Dug's also adopted the English language, becoming the first of their native brethren to sing in English. After gigging in Mexico City, the band--who was managed at the time by bandleader Armando Nava's father--was spotted and signed by RCA Mexico. Shortly thereafter, an American tourist heard them in Tijuana and offered to finance the band's attempt to break through in America's densely populated rock scene in the late-'60s. They flew to NYC, but ultimately failed to find success.

Back at home in Mexico, the group's music was received well and their fame began to rise as this album was released. Then, just as Dug Dug's had proven to be trendsetters in switching to English vocals, they sparked an interest among Mexican bands to return to their Spanish roots. By the group's second album, recorded in 1972, the band had shrunk from a quintet to a trio and had switched back to singing in Spanish in the process. They went on to record a total of four albums in the '70s. Today, they still retain some presence in Mexico as a "classic rock" band. Yet, in America, they're unknowns, apparently overlooked even by the reissue fools at Rhino.

Lyrically, there's not much to Los Dug Dug's, and I don't think that comes as a result of the translation. However, musically, these guys were on fire. On their debut, they switch between frenetic fretboard burners to airy pop to Latin-inspired funk with a sleight of hand that's rather remarkable. Try these on for size:

"Lost in My World": A sexy, reverb-drenched garage rocker with cheesy effects-laden vocals and some memorable lead guitar.

"Eclipse": This was a Latin-American hit, and it's easy to hear why. Hands down the best song on the album. A funky, fuzz-laden party tune that sounds like a long-lost cousin of Os Mutantes.

"Sometimes": A mellow, trippy affair, with flute taking the lead.

"World of Love": Another hit from the record. Flower Power dudes!

"Let's Make it Now": Oh no! Drum solo! Who knew John Bonham was hiding out in Mexico? The band swipes the percussive guitar attack of the Easybeats ("Sorry") and picks up the pace.

Additional MP3s available here. Purchase Los Dug Dug's self-titled CD by e-mailing Anopheles here. The CD will run you $17, shipping included.