Review: Dum Dum Girls – “Only in Dreams”

Oh my, the new Dum Dum Girls record is totally not what I was expecting! I guess I sort of holed up with I Will Be, their 2010 debut LP that made a lot of noise in cyberspace and was, well, noisy. Dee Dee’s lo-fi vocals were so uncouth and cool that they influenced my own approach to filtering vocals. But the smooth craftiness of them, their hooky, ‘in the pocket’ nature, made it all okay, I think. That’s an element that shines through again on Only in Dreams, which came out today. But, I have to tell you, Dum Dum Girls have cleaned up their act!

Meg White has always given something so raw and truthful to the White Stripes’ live show that all of their records have failed to capture. The Dum Dum Girls do that, too, but their records, now the two, stand alone just fine as artistic recordings, extensions of what the band does.

The opening track is “Always Looking.” About 20 seconds in it began reminding me of Grand Ole Party (specifically “Fire In My Head,” my favorite Grand Ole Party tune… my favorite Kristin Gundred tune, in fact, which would be followed closely by some early Dum Dum Girls stuff, if you care to know that). And then, enter backup vocal soft-shouts, ala Le Tigre, and a swooping song ending that is surf guitar fizzling out very ‘springily’, like The Raveonettes’ guitars always do. “Bedroom Eyes” follows. The chorus is smooth and features a wonderful 3-step progression that is supported by lush, warm backup vocals, the likes of which repeat on “Caught in One.” All of a sudden, with Only in Dreams, I feel that the Dum Dum Girls are making a visual statement – one that’s more streamlined and polished than before (though I don’t think they were really shooting for visual before at all).

A few of the songs get too bee-bop for my taste buds, but those vintage, Rickenbacker (or so it seems) tones are so craftily recorded that I can’t skip through. “In My Head” is very progressively and percussively akin to something from Best Coast. And all of a sudden I wonder if Dum Dum Girls’ transition from record #1 to record #2 is indicative of a current trend that Best Coast will also follow with their #2?

“Coming Down” is a different approach for Dum Dum Girls, and one I’m quite fond of. Simplistic as usual, it’s got some very heartfelt lyrics/vocals happening, ones that are interjected with short instrumental rises. The whole thing reminds me of a Mazzy Star style. Just when I think the song is wearing itself out, it picks itself back up with some gorgeous single note layering on one of those instrumental rises, and it’s duly long enough, unlike the frustrating antithesis of some tunes off the first Dum Dum Girls record.

“Wasted Away” holds the lyrics for the album’s title, wrapped inside the line, “I’d rather waste away than see you only in dreams.” It brings back some of the band’s trademark tongue-in-cheek accolades. “Teardrops on My Pillow” back it up, with a verse cadence and rhyme scheme that are closely related to I Will Be’s “Jail La La.”

To conclude, Only in Dreams is a pretty short LP with some definite high points and a few tunes that fall into the pool of ‘eh’ Fifties retro rock again. It probably won’t make as much of an impact as I Will Be did, but few do. Comparatively, this record is less haunting and dark (con) but more emotional and concrete and intimate (pro). I’d like to know if this was the sound Dee Dee was initially seeking, or if this is an evolution of the band, having toured extensively over the past couple of years.

You be the judge of Only in Dreams: stream the entire record HERE. And check out the new video for “Bedroom Eyes” HERE. Upcoming tour dates are below.

US Tour Dates:
Fri, Sep 30, San Diego, CA Casbah
Sat, Oct 01, San Diego, CA Casbah
Sun, Oct 02, Costa Mesa, CA Detroit Bar
Mon, Oct 03, Los Angeles, CA Troubadour
Tue, Oct 04, San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall
Fri, Oct 07 Portland, OR Doug Fir
Sat, Oct 08, Vancouver, BC Electric Owl
Sun, Oct 09, Seattle, WA Neumo’s
Wed, Oct 12, St. Paul, MN Turf Club
Thu, Oct 13, Madison, WI High Noon
Fri, Oct 14, Chicago, IL Empty Bottle
Sat, Oct 15, Detroit, MI Magic Stick
Sun, Oct 16, Toronto, ONT Lee’s Palace
Mon, Oct 17, Montreal, QU Il Motore
Wed, Oct 19, Boston, MA Paradise
Fri, Oct 21, New York, NY Bowery Ballroom
Sat, Oct 22, Washington, DC Black Cat
Sun, Oct 23, Philadelphia, PA Union Transfer
Mon, Oct 24, Hoboken, NJ Maxwell’s

Europe Dates:
Thu, Nov 03, Berlin, Germany Festsaal Kreuzberg
Fri, Nov 04, Cologne, Germany MTC
Sat, Nov 05, Lyon, France Big Tinnitus Festival at Clacson
Tue, Nov 08, Nantes, France Stereolux
Wed, Nov 09, Roubaix, France Le Cave aux Poetes
Thu, Nov 10, Brussels, Belgium Rotande Botanique
Fri, Nov 11, Amsterdam, Netherlands London Calling Festival
Sun, Nov 13, Manchester, UK FAC 251
Mon, Nov 14, Newcastle, UK The Cluny
Tue, Nov 15, Leeds, UK Brudenell Social Club
Wed, Nov 16, Wrexham, UK Central Station
Thu, Nov 17, London, UK ULU

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