Release Date: Sep 27, 2011
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
The Dum Dum Girls' 2010 debut, I Will Be, was girl-group rock cut with low-fi guitar frizz. This disc is all hi-fi, sonically and emotionally, piling on Phil Spector echo and Go-Go's gloss as singer-guitarist Dee Dee Penny mourns a faraway lover and a fatally sick mom: "Death is on the telephone/I lie and say she isn't home," she sings, somewhere between the Shangri-Las and Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. The six-minute "Coming Down" repeats the phrase "I think I'm coming down" almost 20 times, each falling like a hammer.
L. A. ’s Dum Dum Girls have been up to some hardcore music housekeeping this year, furthering their collaboration with producer/songwriter Richard Gottehrer (“My Boyfriend’s Back,” Blondie) since their He Gets Me High EP, which previewed a considerably polished sound.
In the past, songwriter and frontwoman Kristin Gundred (aka Dee Dee) has described her band’s sound as “blissed-out buzz saw.” And as far as band sound descriptions go, this was a pretty good one. Her early recordings, which led to and are included on Dum Dum Girls’ well-received 2010 Sub Pop release I Will Be, are fuzzy, reverb-soaked rock ‘n’ roll blasts—aggressive and dirty, while being warm and, well, blissed-out. However, on Only in Dreams—the band’s second full-length on the revered label—Gundred and whoever she’s playing with these days have decided to pull back the buzz saw and turn up the bliss, making a record so immensely listenable that its almost frustrating.
In the Shangri-Las' 1965 hit I Can Never Go Home Anymore, the song's fictional mother dies, and Mary Weiss unleashes a heart-piercing cry of "Mama!" A similar wail underscores the second album from Dum Dum Girls, a kind of latter-day Shangri-Las. Kristin Gundred wrote the lyrics following her mother's death, tracing every mood from shock to sorrow to impatience for the return of normality. On Bedroom Eyes and In My Head, Gundred no less throatily mourns the absence of her husband while she's on tour.
DUM DUM GIRLS hit Lee’s Palace October 16. See listing. Rating: NNNN On last year's I Will Be, Dum Dum Girls exuded frigid cool on every song. The L.A. four-piece are still cool, and still exploring the possibilities offered by three chords and a backbeat, but on Only In Dreams they're taking ….
Sugar, spice, and overnighters in dank Italian jail cells-- these are the things that Dum Dum Girls' first record was made of. Equal parts girl-group gloss and brash punk energy, I Will Be paired the tinny jangle of Psychocandy-coated guitars with lead singer Dee Dee's exquisitely aloof vocals to create a vibe of timelessly cool abandon. It sounded like a girl gang had kicked the authority figures out of the principal's office, barricaded the doors, and taken to blasting their delinquent anthems like "Bhang Bhang, I'm a Burnout" and "Jail La La" over the school's loudspeaker.
Dum Dum Girls, despite their ties to lo-fi, have never been a band to sit still or settle down in the basement. After cleaning up their debut EP's hazy sound a touch on the still murky, mostly home-recorded I Will Be, the band made singer Dee Dee's voice shine on their latest EP, this year's He Gets Me High. Now, Only in Dreams is the full realization of this move towards clarity.
Expecting the second Dum Dum Girls record to be much like the first one is a bit of a losing proposition. Only in Dreams is a much more fully formed and “real” sounding record that makes a huge leap from the bedroom to the studio, and could leave some of the band’s original fans shaking their heads at some of the changes the band’s leader Dee Dee has made. Instead of recording by herself, she formed a regular band and trusts them to play and sing with her throughout.
It would have been a prescient soul who foretold that [a]Dum Dum Girls[/a] would unwittingly foreshadow their own future with a throwaway cover of a track originally penned by a moody, and decidedly scuzz-free, son of Salford. Frontwoman Dee Dee Penny, better known for lyrical fripperies about schoolyard crushes, was the last person we’d expect to follow in the maudlin tread of [a]Morrissey[/a], when she proffered her own take on ‘[b]There Is A Light That Never Goes Out[/b]’, his paean to eternal loneliness. Admittedly, their rickety rendition of [a]The Smiths[/a]’ classic came smothered with their customary layer of thick, sludgy guitars and treacly girl-group harmonies.
Kristin “Dee Dee” Gundred starts off her band’s new album by singing about men who have wronged her: “Before I met you, I had a few/ Who hung around made me blue. ” Then she flips the sentiment around to express cautious optimism, insisting that “[she] was always looking. ” On paper, it’s not terribly far removed from the utterances of a certain Bethany Consentino.
For all that is alluring about the Dum Dum Girls, there’s the ever-present danger that the mask might slip. The idea of a all-girl four piece dressed in black lace and singing their doo wop blues behind an artful scuzz makes for a striking image but one that’s hard to embrace with anything other than icy nonchalance. There’s more to music than iconography and on their debut album I Will Be, it seemed Dee Dee, Jules, Bambi and Sandy were preoccupied naming themselves after rejected dwarves from the Snow White movie to grasp this concept.
I can’t help but digest the brand-new LP by noise pop sirens Dum Dum Girls in the light of my interview with Simon Reynolds back in June. In the midst of our discussion of the ideas behind his book Retromania (the rise of atemporality in the digital over-information age, the decline of futurist impulses in pop music, etc.), I asked him if rock was too spent as a creative force to produce anything truly innovative these days. Reynolds quite astutely pointed out that the current crop of ‘60s-by-way-of-the-‘80s-by-way-of-the-‘00s revivalist artists really don’t even rate innovation as a concern.
When it comes to the dreaded sophomore album, artists usually move in one of two directions: They either craft a worthy sequel that at least matches the success of their debut, or they crash and burn. Only in Dreams isn’t a failure, but it’s not a rousing triumph either. Instead, the Dum Dum Girls’ second LP is a lesser version of the work found on 2010’s I Will Be.
DUM DUM GIRLS “Only in Dreams”. (Sub Pop).
Dum Dum Girls is a female-fronted indie rock group from California. Any preconceived notions about their sound based on these facts, however, should be promptly abrogated. These aren’t sunny, carefree melodies from the likes of contemporaries Best Coast. Rather, these tracks from Dum Dum Girls’ sophomore release are tethered in rebellion and contention, battling life and emotion with a feral grin.
Even the sunniest of pop albums can have a heavy side. The writing of California all-girl quartet Dum Dum Girls’ latest LP, Only In Dreams, was inspired by a recent set of sad events in lead singer/songwriter Dee Dee Penny’s life: the passing of her mother (known to the rest of us as the pretty lady on the cover of 2010’s I Will Be) and the emotional toll she felt while away from her husband (Crocodiles’ Brandon Welchez) while their respective bands were touring. Only In Dreams is a record about losing and longing—a restrained, mature effort that still retains the irresistible sugar-rush energy that brought the group to national attention.
A darker, deeper collection that builds well on the LA band’s debut LP. Jen Long 2011 Much like fashion and film, music has its fads and trends. 2010’s explosion of C86-styled slacker guitar nostalgia gave us a host of Best Coast and Vivian Girls types; but it’s these four ladies from Los Angeles who have crafted the strongest comeback for 2011.