Release Date: Sep 25, 2012
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop, Noise Pop
Let this EP be memorable, if for nothing else, for the marvelous absence of that dreaded, overplayed 60s surf beat. Alright, well maybe you can still hear it in I Got Nothing, but regardless, this is a significantly creative milestone in Dum Dum Girls’ career. Over the course of five songs, a mere eighteen minutes, the band has expressed and mastered a wider variety of textures and moods than that found on either of their two albums.
It makes sense that Dum Dum Girls thrive in short form. Though they've turned into a versatile band comfortable in an array of styles, their roots are in garage rock, a sound that has a long history of mining the potential of brevity: It's a genre built on a foundation of singles, whose holy text is aptly titled "Nuggets", and whose philosophy is summarized by a song that went "I hope I die before I get old. " Though Dum Dum Girls' latest EP, End of Daze, has a handful of gothic influences, its all-killer-no-filler concision feels like a tribute to the spirit that they've have been riffing on since their debut, I Will Be.
Dum Dum GirlsEnd of Daze EP[Sub Pop; 2012]By Joshua Pickard; November 13, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetThat beat is gone. That catch-all annoyingly prevalent surf pop drum beat that permeated all the previous Dum Dum Girls releases—except maybe the He Gets Me High EP—is finally gone. Granted, in small doses, it was catchy, even memorable in certain instances, but when most of the songs on an album are based around the same beat, they lose most of their replay value very quickly.
No modern artist has matched the sonic pulchritude of the classic 4AD roster quite like Dee Dee and her Dum Dum Girls. Though 2010’s I Will Be drew comparisons to Phil Spector’s ‘60s girl groups more so than the swirling end times dream pop that Ivo Watts-Russell cultivated, last autumn’s wondrous and infrequently devastating Only in Dreams smudged their gauzy sound into the margins and added some considerable heft. No mere perfunctory stopgap, End of Daze sees the band further venturing into the beauteous bleakness with five distressing cuts.
When Dum Dum Girls made the leap from songwriter Dee Dee’s bedroom to Sub Pop for 2010’s debut LP I Will Be, those unfamiliar with the project’s backlog of EPs and singles could easily make the mistake of judging the band from their press photo, depicting four vampy women dressed in all black while standing on the beach, equal parts Joey Ramone and Bettie Page. Idiosyncrasies like a uniform of leather and stockings, the all-female band membership requirement, and even the decision for each band member to go by single-word nicknames might have worked against the band in some ways, with many thinking that they already knew what the girls would sound like without listening, and others simply showing skepticism in anything with an obvious image agenda. But, over the course of what seems like a wealth of recorded material in a relatively short amount of time, Dum Dum Girls have won over critics and listeners alike by overshadowing this image with increasingly affecting and surprising music.
Dum Dum Girls released their first album, I Will Be, in 2010. It was a critical hit. The ladies in the band wore matching black striped tights. Their producer, Richard Gottehrer, co-wrote the ‘60s hit “My Boyfriend’s Back,” and that kind of cutesy call-and-response garage pop sound was all over their first single, “Jail La La.” Bandleader Dee Dee Penny worked her Shangri-Las coo to full effect.
Despite initial portents heralding the death of the album, 2012 has been a landmark year for the fading format, with a bumper crop of strong, specifically conceived works forestalling a return to a world of free-floating singles. Nevertheless, some bands might benefit from such a transition, particularly those whose success has less to do with presenting cohesive long-format works than unleashing strings of catchy, playlist-ready pop. Among these is Dum Dum Girls, a group whose songs work best in small doses.
End of Daze has all the hallmarks of a placeholder EP, a couple tracks recorded as B-sides, a cover, and a couple of new songs. Placeholder it may be, but it's also one of the best recordings Dum Dum Girls have done to date. It expands their sound, delves into some new sonic textures, and cements Dee Dee's place as one of the more interesting and expressive vocalists around.
Sticking with the formula of last year’s full-length ‘Only In Dreams’ – which gave a lick of polish to the fast-paced rock’n’roll of their earlier recordings – ‘End Of Daze’ feels like its mellow younger sibling. Kristin Gundred, aka Dee Dee, proves her mastery of the pop hook with the standout track ‘Lord Knows’ – an arm-flailing ballad with a chord progression so euphoric it should come with a vertigo warning. It’s a shame nothing else on ‘End Of Daze’ meets its might.
“I hate the trees, and I hate the flowers,” croons Dum Dum Girls’ lead vocalist Dee Dee Penny, like sepia-toned memories of afternoons languidly lazing through the park. Despite the pain present on their cover of Strawberry Switchblade’s “Trees and Flowers”, the sweetness of the Dum Dum Girls’ girl-group nostalgia is both playful and profound. With every release, the Dum Dum Girls’ sound becomes fuller, which could stem from their studio-enhanced production, or Penny’s decision to include a full band with their lineup.
Arthur Rimbaud published his extended poem “A Season in Hell” (1873) at the age of 19, had a well-known “relationship” with another French decadent poet (the older Paul Verlaine), disappeared from the public eye and quit writing by age 20, and has since then became the poster child for youthful rebellion. Dismissing his literary endeavors as “absurd, ridiculous, disgusting,” Rimbaud joined the Dutch Colonial army and later found home in the city of Aden, Yemen, where he headed a caravan for a French coffee trader. On Dum Dum Girls’ surprisingly yet unexcitedly mature EP End of Daze, Kristin “Dee Dee” Gundred sings of her own “Season in Hell”: “There’s always darkness to endure/ On the path to be redeemed.
The 2010 debut long-player from N.Y./L.A. rockers Dum Dum Girls rode in on a salvo of summery, vintage, DIY lady rock. While others (Vivian Girls, Best Coast) continued in their roles of bright-eyed beach vixens, this quartet improved with expert girl-group songwriting on sophomore full-length Only in Dreams, and maintain that standard for latest EP End of Daze, the band's fourth.