Dum Dum Girls: Only In Dreams


The Dum Dum Girls’ latest album, Only in Dreams (2011), was produced by Richard Gottehrer (yes, the guy who wrote “My Boyfriend’s Back” and “I Want Candy”) with help from Sune Rose Wagner (The Raveonettes), which should inevitably result in a sugary sweet 60’s twee-glossed sound, right? Don’t forget the nod to garage-pop bands such and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and Vivian Girls whose influences jangle back to the C-86 days. Isn’t that the case? No, not with the Dum Dum Girls sophomore release, which shows that they’re prepared to pack up and move out of their lo-fi bedrooms of I Will Be (2010) and into more mature surroundings.

Coping with the recent death of her mother, lead singer Dee Dee (a stage name that gives an honorary wink to the Ramones) has a heavy burden to carry these days. On top of this, she is reported to admit some stage shyness as well, a fact that is not at all apparent. In “Bedroom Eyes,” Dee Dee’s voice sparkles effervescently above Jule’s subdued guitar plucks and Bambi’s low-tide bass lines.

A refreshing move away from the lo-fi, buried vocals is most apparent in “Come Down,” a ballad that shines a spotlight to the Pretenders, as Dee Dee holds her vocals beautifully mid-track. But the lyrics are what make this song particularly stunning and personal, “You abuse the ones who love you/You abuse the ones who won’t/If you ever had a real heart/I don’t think you’d know where to start.”

The Dum Dum Girls don’t make a complete about-face to their latter-day fellow girl-garage pop rockers, though. “Always Looking,” the opening track, preserves a West Coast guitar flavor, “Before I met you I had a few/Who hung around and made me blue,” although with a little East Coast punk feel as can be heard in the backup chants, “But I was always looking (for you).” There’s also a little doo-wop jingle in “In My Head,” with lyrics that cleverly betray this genre of pop-love slightly as Dee Dee could be suffering over her lost mother, “Don’t bother asking how my day was/Everyday drags the same just because/Without you I can’t get out of my bed/I’d rather visit you in my head.”

While other songs such as “Caught in One” aren’t as vague, keeping with the garage-pop spirit with the rolling wave beats of Sandy and hot clarity of Dee Dee’s voice The next track, “Wasted Away” is a triple punch to the gut and heart lyrically, “I want to save you anyway I can/I steal your rings and make these your hands/Yeah, only in dreams/But there’s nothing to say/At the end of the day, you’re wasting away.” It’s clear what Dee Dee’s talking about, but the song is painfully catchy that a heartbroken dance is the only necessary thing to do.

It’s the growing pains of Only in Dreams that capture and pull in something novel to an already saturated 60’s garage-pop revival. The Dum Dum Girls have taken a risk in trying something new, but this risk, for the most part, has paid off. With a move into a more lyrically confident and sonically rich landscape, it’s only a matter of time before the Dum Dum Girls create their magnum opus.

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