Published on September 27th, 2011 | by Danger0
Dum Dum Girls- Only In Dreams
Dum Dum Girls are nothing if not prolific. Since the release of their debut EP in late 2009, Dee Dee and the gang have hardly gone six months without an album, singles compilation, or EP release. Sticking to that rule, DDG are now following up the excellent spring EP release He Gets Me High with their 2nd full length album, Only in Dreams.
Follow up albums have proven to be especially tricky for the recent crop of lo-fi acts. Those who double down on the appealing skuzz of their debut and crank out another 12 songs in the same vein run the risk of diminished returns by wearing out the welcome on their formula (Vivian Girls’ 2nd album). Of course, the alternate risk of expanding one’s sonic palette and leaving behind some of the staticy production crutches can either bring about a new level of expressive quality (the recent Male Bonding album) or reveal the band to be kind of boring (Vivian Girls’ 3rd album). I tried really hard to squeeze an insult towards Nathan Williams (Wavves) into that rundown but it wouldn’t work. Let it be known, that guy sucks.
The pressure to circumvent those troubled waters has been somewhat lessened for Dum Dum Girls’ second album. With He Gets Me High, the group already showed a great leap forward in both production and composing. The drums were suddenly fully audible and much of the obfuscating clang of the reverb was dialed back for a more natural tone that revealed front woman Dee Dee to have an even more powerful and animated voice than many had assumed. Even more importantly, the songs on He Gets Me High lost none of their fuzzy throwback charm or earworm quality. If anything, Only in Dreams feels like an elongated version of the progress made on that EP. That assessment bears repeating.
If anything, Only In Dreams feels like an elongated version of the progress made on that EP
Therein lies both an explanation of its greatest attributes and weaknesses. A song like He Gets Me High is indicative of everything right with the sound of Dum Dum Girls. There’s great harmonies, surfy lead guitar and churning strummed chords; and scary women who wear sunglasses at night and sing about their broken hearts. Most of all it has an incredible hook. The Girls repeat that action throughout Only in Dreams. One will probably be able sing along to every song after two listens. The problem is that, with some songs, that memorization feels a little rote. 10 songs and 36 minutes is not a lot of music but at least two or three of the songs feel inessential. This is my main complaint:
I kind of wish they hadn’t released He Gets Me High and held on to the best songs for placement on Only in Dreams.
Wrong Feels Right,” and, He Gets Me High,” are fucking amazing songs. If they were put on Only in Dreams instead of redundant feeling songs
like, In My Head,” and, Wasted Away,” or, Bedroom Eyes,” the album would honestly make a really notable jump in quality.
All of that said, there are a lot of things to love about this record. The harmonies are better than they have ever been and fierce attitude abounds. Just a Creep,” is among the more fun and gleeful kiss off/”step away, I know your tricks,” songs (of the non Beyonce category) that you’ll hear this year. Teardrops On My Pillow,” really makes me want to build a mixtape of songs with them theme of, I cry at night so I won’t wreck my makeup.” These songs call for an in the car sing along. Beyond that, the album is marked by the very unfortunate recent death of Dee Dee’s mother. In channeling her grief into songs like, Coming Down,” and, Hold Your Hand,” Dee Dee has written songs about death and longing that still manage to end up sounding like they’re about being hurt by a boy. I find that incredibly interesting. Coming Down,” is particularly noteworthy as a singular item in their catalog. At 6 ½ minutes it is as long as 3 or 4 songs on I Will Be and is filled with, as yet, uncharted textures. Halfway through the song she belts out, I think I’m coming down. Here I gooooooooooo,” and is followed by the group’s first truly satisfying guitar solo. It is a rewarding expression of gravitas that is unexpected from a band that is largely concerned with bubblegum and poison.
Final Verdict: Only in Dreams is a very fun record but one can’t shake the feeling that it could have been better.
Only in Dreams is available now on Sub Pop Records