Release Date: Jan 28, 2014
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Pop
It’s easy to play “Name That Reference Point” on any Dum Dum Girls album. After all, they’re the same tastemakers that frontwoman Dee Dee has been doing proud since the band released their first lo-fi pop tunes in 2008. While the tried and true Siouxsie-meets-Madonna sheen has returned for the band’s third album, there’s also a new element at work.
Dum Dum Girls frontwoman Dee Dee tends to favour dark emotional terrain in her songs, and her third full-length once again finds her wallowing in gothic, mascara-streaked melancholia. Too True gets off to a dark start, as opener "Cult of Love" is laced with surf-noir guitar leads and sullenly dead-eyed vocals. Elsewhere, "In the Wake of You" is steeped in romantic longing, and the slo-mo rock anthem "Lost Boys and Club" contains the lyric, "Your eyes are black X's of hate and of hexes."But despite the persistent gloom-mongering, these ten tracks aren't overly depressing, since the punchy drum machine rhythms are infectious and the dazzling pop melodies are the catchiest in Dum Dum Girls' repertoire.
On the band's third full-length, Dum Dum Girls swap the atmospheric drama of 2012's End Of Daze EP for punchy dream pop. Chief Dum Dum Dee Dee Penny describes that EP as the end of a period of confusion, and her newfound lucidity is reflected not only in Too True's lyrics but in its considered production, too: tight, driving drum machine, layered vocals, distorted riffs and guitar effects that recall classic Cure. Working again with pop Svengali Richard Gottehrer and the Raveonettes' Sune Rose Wagner, DDG find a nice middle ground between their signature detachment and a classic pop sensibility.
There’s a good chance that if Dum Dum Girls had continued on as lo-fi garage dwellers, we might not be talking about them right now. The fact that frontwoman Dee Dee has continued to futurize her ’60s girl-group proclivities has kept things from molding over. And when I say “futurize,” I mean to the year 1981. While Dum Dum Girls began polishing up the fuzz and drawing from other influences on 2011’s He Gets Me High EP, it’s nothing compared to the shimmer and sophistication of the band’s third full-length, Too True.
Dum Dum Girls mastermind Dee Dee has been flirting with, and stepping tentatively back from, full-fledged stardom ever since she introduced herself to us. She has songwriting chops and charisma that dwarf her indie-pop Class of 09-10 peers, and when it all locks together she is capable of stopping time: "Lord Knows", from her 2012 EP End of Daze was dramatic enough to make a stroll to the kitchen feel like riding a burning motorcycle off a cliff, and her cover of Strawberry Switchblade's "Trees and Flowers" was the sultriest that crippling agoraphobia has ever sounded. However, she's never made the bold, arresting full-length her EPs tease at.
To paraphrase French author Paul Valery, all literature is written in common sense, except for that of Arthur Rimbaud. The decadent French poet — irreverent, morally loose — developed works that eventually became the cornerstone for surrealism and Dadaism. Rimbaud flourished in the 19th century, but his legacy lurks where abandon, curiosity, and fervor merge within art.
On Too True, the Dum Dum Girls' third full-length, we lose nearly all of their previous punk elements. And I'm ok with that.Their full-length debut on Sub Pop, 2010's I Will Be, propelled Dee Dee and Co. to prominence in both the indie and punk worlds, melding 60's-inspired melodies with gentle feedback, a haze of reverb and and that punk rock vocal sneer and snare drum crack.
Review Summary: True romance.And then there was one. Days after fellow fuzz-pop compatriots Vivian Girls announced their dissolution, an unlikely torchbearer of the late ‘00s lo-fi scene keeps marching on. Too True is implausible for a number of reasons – after 2011’s Only in Dreams, a tortuous ride alongside Dee Dee Penny’s (aka Kristin Welchez) grief and turbulence over losing her mother coupled with an aesthetic that was quickly becoming warmed over, it was hard to see where Dum Dum Girls would go from there.
Dee Dee Penny (or just Dee Dee now) and crew dip further than ever into the dark '80s wormhole with Too True, all ice-cold production and layers of chorused guitars. And look, a blue neon rose to match—paired with Dee Dee herself on the Lita Ford-style album art. It'll either be Best Album Art or Worst when we hit 2014's best-of list season, depending on the holiday season's ironic/post-ironic appreciation trends.
As she tells it, Dum Dum Girls leader Dee Dee Penny locked herself away in her New York apartment in the summer of 2012 ready to draw a line under the two albums and four EPs that thus far comprised her band’s discography. She wanted to move on. She wanted to write the record that would grant her access to the rock’n’roll pantheon, where she could brush shoulders with a list of luminaries she helpfully spelled out: Suede, Siouxsie And The Banshees, “Cold-wave” Patti Smith, Madonna, The Cure, both “Velvet and Paisley Undergrounds” and The Stone Roses.
Pop music doesn’t have to be anything but pop music. It doesn’t have to enlighten, or challenge, or do anything except make me want to play it again. Sure, Katy can brag about kissing girls, the Pistols can slag off the Queen, and the Archies can make me their candy girl, but what really matters is the few minutes of aural pleasure they provide.
Though awkwardly similar to Mazzy Star's plaintive 'Fade Into You', 'Coming Down', the highest peak of Dum Dum Girls' second album Only in Dreams, offered the only real sense of connection on an otherwise unremarkable record. Surrounded on either side by taut, smoky yet ultimately repetitive stabs of nostalgia pop, its slow burn was always going to stand out, but 'Coming Down', powered by front woman and chief architect Dee Dee Penny's soul-searching in the wake of her mother's death, emerged, brilliantly, as cathartic triumph. While very much the exception to the punchy rule, it wasn't entirely new territory.
On the cover of Dum Dum Girls' third album, singer-guitarist Dee Dee Penny stalks the bluelit night looking like a vampire Pat Benatar. That's the music's vibe, too: sleek, tough, pouty indie pop streaked with black-eyeliner distortion and glossy melodies. Songs like "Rimbaud Eyes" and "Evil Blooms" more than live up to their fashion-goth titles. But Penny is best opening up her sound on big, searching ballads like "Lost Boys and Girls Club," where sad Madonna hangs with the Jesus and Mary Chain, or the Chrissie Hynde-worthy weeper "Are You Okay?" where Penny wanders in a "lavender haze" ("I'm reckless at night/I'm sorry for days"), wearing boozy misery like a black-leather security blanket.
Album on album, Dum Dum Girls have got better at refining their woozy, reverb-heavy, garage-rock foundations into something shiningly poppy. On their last full-length release, 2011’s ‘Only In Dreams’, that ran into something tragic, the death of lead singer and main songwriter Dee Dee’s mother, and what emerged from the other side was something that was often brilliant.Here, there’s less of the blunt outpouring of emotion and a sense of increased lightness. Actually, that shouldn’t be a massive surprise given the EP (‘End Of Daze’) released between the two albums; the title alone being a fairly blatant pointer towards the change of mood.
The Dum Dum Girls' third album comes with an exhaustive list of inspirations that helped singer Dee Dee smash through her writer's block. A love of Suede, Stone Roses, Siouxsie Sioux and surrealism fed into her attempt to "chase pop into the dark". Which is to say she wants to make her earlier stripy-tights-and-bowl-cut garage-punk seem more sophisticated.
“My muse is not a horse and I am in no horse race.” None other than Nick Cave wrote those words in October 1996 as part of a letter to MTV politely refusing a nomination for Best Male Artist. 18 years later, the Australian’s pithy words helped to inspire Dee Dee Penny, while writing her band’s third album, to “set the muse free”. The concept of a muse is a fascinating one in the context of the Dum Dum Girls‘ third album, for by the sound of it, Penny’s muse is clad all in black, wearing badly applied eye make-up and sitting on a bench in the mid-’80s somewhere looking sad.
The stylistic jump between the first two Dum Dum Girls records was so stark that you could forgive the casual listener for wondering if they were even listening to the same band. I Will Be was a snappy, half-hour exercise in scuzzy guitars and mildly-distorted vocals, whilst Only in Dreams – released a little over twelve months later – was much cleaner in its sound, and a touch more melodic, too. You could probably draw a comparison with the difference between the first two Best Coast albums, if it weren’t for the fact that Only in Dreams, unlike The Only Place, wasn’t interminably dull.
There’s a moment in author John D’Agata’s About a Mountain when he briefly chronicles the history of Edvard Munch’s The Scream, detailing Munch’s relationship with death, the act of screaming, and the pain projected into his famous painting. D’Agata ends the moment outlining the use of Munch’s visual metaphor in the world of advertising, how it’s been used in ads to sell cars, for a caricature blow-up doll, for M&M’s. “Dark just got fun,” D’Agata quotes and, in the space of a few pages, chronicles the death and depletion of a metaphor, language’s seeming inability to last through time.
When Dum Dum Girls debuted with 2010’s I Will Be, much of what it presented felt like affectation: a highly stylized look and retro-minded music, an amalgam of rock sounds from the ’60s and ’70s, from girl groups to The Velvet Underground and proto-punk. “Affectation” isn’t a slight; singer-songwriter Dee Dee Penny (a.k.a. Kristin Gundred) succeeded in crafting a singular vision for her music, even if the parameters started to feel a little rigid (and repetitive) with successive Dum Dum Girls releases.
The Universe is a cruel mistress. Her incessant need to achieve balance means that in the same breath that exhales the Dum Dum Girls stellar new album, Too True, their contemporaries, Vivian Girls, announce their dissolution. Both female trios cut their teeth on lo-fi pop that fused 60s girl group ….
Throughout the course of two albums and a slew of EPs, Dum Dum Girls have established themselves as the missing link between retro-minded garage-rockers (e. g. , the Raveonettes) and darker, girl-group-oriented acts (e.
In another life, another era, Dee Dee Penny would have fronted a famous band like the Shangri-Las or the Smiths or any group that had a mastermind who wrote instantly catchy melodies with hooks sharp as knives. She has a keen eye for classic pop songcraft, right down to circular choruses that tangle up in your head like taffy. And they’re just as sweet.
Dum Dum Girls, based in New York, and Peggy Sue, a British band, started in different realms: punky for Dum Dum Girls, folky for Peggy Sue. But there are moments on their two new albums when they are making nearly the same music, with women’s voices, a galloping beat and a guitar swathed in reverb. Dum Dum Girls found that sound first. The group — which is now, in its studio lineup, just the songwriter, singer and guitarist Dee Dee, abetted by the guitarist, drummer and programmer Sune Rose Wagner, from the Raveonettes — arrived in 2008 with a concept so fully formed that, as with the Ramones, each successive album has largely offered refinements and variations.
Unlike the previous Dum Dum Girls album, Only in Dreams, which was a harrowing account of her sadness in the wake of her mother's passing, the pain chief Girl Dee Dee felt while making 2014's Too True was mostly artistic, with a little bit of physical pain thrown in for bad measure. After writing and recording songs, then tossing them out, then losing her voice, then writing new songs, Dee Dee went through a lot for her art. Happily, the resulting album is the best overall Dum Dum Girls album to date.
Dee Dee Penny, the queen bee of Dum Dum Girls, has always had a knack for crafting a catchy melody. The group’s 2012 End of Daze EP is a collection of lo-fi melodic garage rock that excelled in not overstaying its welcome. When the final note of End of Daze rang out, it left a perfectly dark door open for Too True.Where End Of Daze threw you up in the air and carried you down on a sun-bleached cloud, Too True grabs you right from the start and pulls you through a dark, synthy 80’s lovesick dream.
Pulsing with an ‘80s New Wave vibe and recalling everyone from Blondie to Berlin to Siouxsie & the Banshees, the Dum Dum Girls’ followup to 2011’s Only In Dreams is an auralgasm par excellence for fans of lush, sensual femmepop. The group’s essentially a vehicle for Dee Dee Penny’s (aka Kristin Welchez) songwriting, having started in ’08 recording at home; the Dum Dum Girls have gone through quite a few members over the years, among them fellow dreampopper Frankie Rose, and also have a sturdy touring lineup currently in place. But in the studio, for Too True it was just Penny along with co-producers Richard “An Instant Record” Gottehrer and Sune Rose Wagner of the Raveonettes (who also contributes drum/synth programming and additional guitars).
Dum Dum Girls Too True (Sub Pop) Red flag: an album accompanied by a navel-gazing narrative on how the artist, in response to some trauma or another, isolated herself to read and write and marinate in pain and emerged on the other side triumphantly bearing a document of that time period. Such is the case with Dum Dum Girl Dee Dee Penny, whose third LP is a New York-inflected art-pop diary of just such a period. Over the course of 10 bite-sized songs, Penny betrays headier artistic impulses in repeated nods to Patti Smith ("Rimbaud Eyes") and Siouxsie Sioux ("Are You Okay").
Think hard: when was the last time a contemporary art-rock band did anything halfway original? Ideally, originality should be a given if you’re talking about proper art, but it feels like today’s generation of bands purporting to be ‘art-rock’ have given up even trying. Death to this never-ending regurgitation of reverb-doused, Spector-ist goth shite: the single most overused retro idiom in fringe guitar music today, followed closely by ’80s-obsessed post-Siouxsie pop. That Dum Dum Girls have been involved in hawking not one but both styles – graduating to the latter, as many contrived millennial goth acts have before them, on their third album Too True – speaks volumes.