Under Review: Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be

While I would love to get behind the bands that are bringing back the style of 1960s pop, they have really yet to sway me into their camps.  Vivian Girls are too uninteresting and Best Coast are taking too long to release an album.  Luckily for me (and everyone else), there’s Dum Dum Girls, a band with both the songs and the attitude to make up for their contemporaries’ shortcomings.  Led by Kristin “Dee Dee” Gundred, former vocalist/drummer of Grand Ole Party (who sounded more like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs than The Shangri-Las), the Dum Dum Girls combine the squall of shoegaze with the charming melodicism of girl-group pop.  After putting together an EP by herself, Gundred got together with three more like-minded ladies (including a former Vivian Girl) and producer Richard Gottherer to create I Will Be, the group’s full-length debut.  The album is a sonic blitz, a headrush of reverb, distortion and harmonies that’s about as summery an album as we’ll get from a band that dresses in all black.  Apparently, the record was planned to be a song cycle about being in an Italian women’s prison, but the end result is less conceptual and more freewheeling.  Though their lyrics aren’t as dramatic (or decipherable) as The Raveonettes’, Dum Dum Girls reprise a number on themes on I Will Be; namely, love, frustration about love, and being in prison (the original concept wasn’t totally abandoned).

Most bands who go for a retro style forget that great songs are a must to go along with the image.  But not Dum Dum Girls.  I Will Be may clock in at under half an hour, but the album’s brevity shouldn’t at all suggest a lack of ideas.  Most of the songs, like opener “It Only Takes On Night” and the title track, feature that classic, sharp snare drum that instantly evokes beach parties and summer dances.  The upbeat songs are contrasted with dark and surreal lyrics, as in “Jail La La,” the only tune to adhere to the aborted storyline.  After so many upbeat numbers, you might expect to get worn out, but the songs’ lengths (all but one are three minutes or under) keep the album from dragging.  The Girls set their stage, tear it to shreds and move on before their appeal begins to wane.  For all its theme-adherence, I Will Be contains a number of pleasant surprises, such as “Oh Mein Me,” which is sung in German, the twangy guitar lead on “Lines Her Eyes,” and the total turnaround on the album’s closing song.  “Baby Don’t Go,” a cover of the Sonny & Cher song, finds Gundred cooing over a hazy acoustic guitar.  This disarming and mature epilogue shows that there’s much more depth to the Dum Dum Girls’ vision than just making fuzzy rock ‘n roll.  Of course, if they decided to with just that, that’d be alright, too.

~ by E. on April 9, 2010.

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