Dee Dee of Dum Dum Girls thrives under a guise. The frontwoman and mastermind of the band has created brilliant musical masterpieces while remaining under the masquerade of a young and naïve girl’s rock band.
She created the moniker after The Vaseline’s self-loathing track “Dum-Dum”–which focuses on the lazy life choices of a “no care bear”–and the Iggy Pop song “Dum Dum Boys,” which is similarly themed. Her album and song titles follow the mundane, easy-to-ignore pattern. But once the listener has pushed pass the pink and flower-scented smoke, sultry vocals that jump from major to minor in one bit of phraseology can finally be heard. This is music that reverberates through the heart as much as it does through the ears.
Dum Dum Girls’ brilliance usually lies in the band’s ability to sound so familiar, to feel classic, to feel reassuring and to support this sound with bold and creative lyrics; they take classic characteristics of old genres and reinvent them. The band has experimented with different periods of pop rock and worked to get its footing through two EPs and three studio LPs. With their most recent LP, Too True, they’ve landed in an era characterized by inventive musical production but plagued by mundane lyricism.
The album itself is reflective of this descent into the realm of high-top fades and skinny jeans: the 1980s and 90s, with all of their highlights and lowlights. The tracks nod to the sound stylings of Pat Benatar and Morrissey, but the lyrics go more in the direction of the era’s one hit wonders like a-Ha’s “Take on Me,” which, I concede, was a great addition to the 80s collection despite the humdrum lyrics.
However, the lyrics still strike a chord with inconsolable self-loathers and jaded lovers who seem to lust and hate in the same line. But from track to track and even within the same song, the ideas don’t support a singular story. The album lacks the ideological flow that was present in the band’s previous releases. Repetition and simplicity are characteristics of almost every track. This is particularly evident on “Rimbaud Eyes,” a track that repeats the line “You got Rimbaud eyes” about 15 times throughout, with only three short verses. The line itself bears little substance; yes, Arthur Rimbaud had strikingly blue eyes, but a line with more sophistication would have served the track better.
Too True marks an introduction of tedious wording but, more importantly, a shift in timbre. Musically, Dum Dum Girls has traded in its smooth, vivacious vocals and consistent melodies for more experimental production and chunky electronically- altered vocals. The album’s distinct 1980s and 1990s feel is yet another turning point in the band’s tour of music history. The band’s sophomore studio album, Only in Dreams, borrowed from 1950s guitar rock, whereas deeper bass and stronger vocals marked End of Daze, an EP that dabbles in more contemporary style. Perhaps as backlash to the new movement of bass dominance, the new album puts the guitar and drums in the spotlight.
The lyrics and sound of Too True are simple, but the music would have surely landed the song on VH1’s “I Love the 80s” if it were actually a part of the period. It might lack depth, but only time will tell if this album’s take on “Take on Me” has a-Ha-like staying power.
3 out of 5 stars