Frontwoman Dee Dee Penny (originally known as Kristin Wilchez) of Dum Dum Girls has been wooing critics with her indie-pop charms for a few years now, which eventually landed the band with a performance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon and a music video premiere with H&M. While the crew has caused quite a stir in indie circles – Too True was even being called one of the most anticipated albums of 2014, and now it’s also considered one of the first ‘great’ albums of the year. Some of its moments are beautiful, but others bank too much on exhausted formulas from 30 years back. It’s about a 50/50 split between boiler-plate throwbacks to Reagan-era pop and inventive, shoegaze-infused synth-garage.
DDG aim for a clandestine sort of free “love” vibe, but it’s executed in straightforward-80’s style, thanks to a Billy Idol beat and some sleepy, new-wave vocals. While reviving sonic fashions from decades past is always trendy, there’s nothing of particular value added to the mix: [LISTEN]
DDG celebrate idle hands as their own playground with more 80’s instrumentation and a nursery-rhyme sort of cadence and lyrical structure. Once again, it’s not terrible, but it’s ultimately pretty boring. Miami Vice fans who like their tunes on the run might beg to differ, though: [LISTEN]
The chorus’ reference to Arthur Rimbaud is just a passing nod, amid an up-tempo, minor-key take on the chords from “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” and a scene akin to the Dawson’s Creek intro. All that melodrama isn’t really translated well, though, and it fails to keep listener investment: [LISTEN]
This goth-ballad sucks the listener in much more than the previous tracks, especially if, as the title suggests, you need a hug. It also eases up a bit on the earlier tracks’ over-bearing 80’s vibe – switching out for a more 90’s Lilith Fair feel – which is plenty refreshing: [LISTEN]
Ah, I see what you did there, lyricist Dee Dee Penny, with the chorus’ full-word spoonerism. Still, while somewhat clever, it doesn’t have any particular importance, and it’s beaten pretty hard. Atop that, Penny can’t decide if she’s “never been more satisfied,” or if she’s “outrunning the devil:” [LISTEN]
Doing a simplified take on the riffs of “I Sat By the Ocean” (or “Hash Pipe,” etc.), Dee Dee et al sing basically a roundabout, slightly more poetic version of “Still Into You”’s message. One can’t help but at least consider that the band’s signature is their legs, not their tunes: [LISTEN].
The syrupy, new wave slow-garage of “Lost Boys…” fits Dee Dee’s sultry voice, just as it fits the anthem of simultaneous aimlessness and freedom. When the Girls get a bit more downtempo groovy, they sound less like a nostalgia stereotype, and more like an act I’d pay to see: [LISTEN]
Reverting back to their love of all things 80’s, DDG are “Running Down a Dream,” biting a bit on Petty’s signature riff. However, the chugging behind the innuendo of “…Minx” is far more repetitive, but the explosion at 1:46 brings a welcome change – albeit too little, too late: [LISTEN]
Switching gears to mid-tempo indie rock, DDG utilize Mixolydian psychedelia to portray once again a feeling of breaking free, this time by riding “streams of light” “under [Dee Dee’s] hands,” not unlike Madonna’s house-tempo semi-soundalike “Ray of Light.” One of the album’s better tracks: [LISTEN]
A pleasant surprise to round out the album: some beachy’60’s guitar tremolo combining with Dee Dee’s dark self-reflection on this beautiful ballad that helps tie previous lyrical themes together. While Too True relied a bit much on 80’s grave-digging, tracks like this demand a closer look: [LISTEN]