Release Date: May 27, 2016
Record label: Sub Pop
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Over a busy six-year period, Dum Dum Girls had an impressive run of singles, EPs, and albums, but after their last record, 2014's Too True, the band's guiding light was beginning to burn out. Dee Dee decided to leave behind the band's fuzzy, girl group-inspired sound and name in favor of a revamped sound and a new name, Kristin Kontrol. Reaching back to the R&B and chart pop of the '80s and '90s, she began writing new songs with the idea that she'd be "Kate Bush covering Mariah." X-Communicate isn't too far from that idea.
Dee Dee from Dum Dum Girls might have gone synth-pop with her new project, Kristin Kontrol, but besides the name change (Kristin Kontrol is the first half of her email address; her real name is Kristin Welchez, neé Gundred) and, of course, the synths (which could be seen as the opposite of the retro '60s garage pop she has spent the past eight years refining), Kristin Kontrol isn't the dramatic switcheroo some might assume it is. Welchez's latest album and first under the new name, X-Communicate, isn't a far cry from the melodies she wrote for Dum Dum Girls. She's still one cool cat, just trading one decade's sounds for another.
Up until now, Kristin Welchez was most commonly known as Dee Dee Penny, the alter-ego she adopted to front garage band Dum Dum Girls, who formed in 2008 amidst an ongoing revival of '60s-inspired, wall-of-sound rock groups. While embodying Dee Dee, Welchez's cool was effortless, as all cool should be; she could have been born with crimson lipstick and a glossy pair of Ray-Bans sitting perfectly parallel to her incredible black bangs. Now, she has re-reinvented herself as Kristin Kontrol, and her first solo record X-Communicate is a total 180 from her work with DDG, eschewing guitar music for the sleekest synthpop imaginable.
Kristin Welchez’s endeavours in Dum Dum Girls show more than a yearning for pop. Dee Dee, as she calls herself, tried out an indie rock flavor on Only in Dreams. It was not bad or artificial, yet it found difficulty separating itself from the crowd. They would have to be ahead of the curve, dealing with similar-sounding La Sera and Best Coast.
A name can carry a lot of meaning. For Kristin Welchez, her chosen moniker of Dee Dee and her band the Dum Dum Girls had left the artist in a box she couldn’t shake. Releasing a handful of strong albums and EPs over the last decade, Welchez developed a reputation for sublime dream pop influenced by both ‘60s girl groups and ‘80s melodramatic indie pop.
Kristin Welchez (aka Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls) is no stranger to stylistic overhauls. Even before her current incarnation as Kristin Kontrol, Dum Dum Girls started as a lo-fi home recording project in 2009 and ended (for now) with 2014's stunning Too True, a record that married the best aspects of dream pop, New Wave, goth, and even '60s psychedelia to some of the most memorable material she'd ever written. Still, this is a change so startling that she had to announce a change of nom de plume from Dum Dum Girls to Kristin Kontrol.
Since Kristin Welchez (formerly Dee Dee of the Dum Dum Girls) has created a whole new alter ego in Kristin Kontrol for this solo album, it would’ve been naïve to expect more of the same. Of course X-Communicate was always going to be something of a departure. However, whatever it was you were expecting to hear, it almost certainly wasn’t this. Indeed, as the first track ‘Show Me’ begins, its drum-machiney, synthy Eighties pop revivalism could have you wondering if you’ve got the right record.
After three LPs and four EPs, Kristin Welchez has left behind the Dum Dum Girls and alter ego Dee Dee Penny to record under a name that explicitly screams solo project. On the last DDG album, 2014's Too True, Welchez adopted a glossier image while incorporating a third guitar, drum machine and electronic elements that inched her away from the detached, scrappy girl-group aesthetics her band (which was always a solo project) had come to represent. As Kristin Kontrol, she is finally free to blossom into the one-woman Romy And Michelle's High School Reunion soundtrack that, in retrospect, she seemed to be suppressing on Too True.