Album Review: Dum Dum Girls – ‘I Will Be’ (Sub Pop)

Our rating:

More than just another garage rock pastiche, these girls have real heart

For those dissenters who accused LA’s [b]Dum Dum Girls[/b] of riding on the coat-tails of similarly suffixed gal-pals [b]Vivian Girls[/b], it’s time to eat your words. It may have been a long time coming, but the debut album from this West Coast four-piece proves that despite sharing an obsession with fuzz, the [b]Mary Chain[/b] and [b]Shangri-Las[/b] melodies with their contemporaries, [b]Dum Dum Girls[/b] are very much their own women. With [b]‘I Will Be’[/b], they unfurl a sound far more intricate and subtle than their Brooklyn rivals. [b]‘Blank Girl’[/b] (featuring [b]Crocodiles[/b]’ Brandon Welch) and [b]‘Jail La La’[/b] each usurp the [b]Vivian Girls[/b]’ dream-pop girl-group harmonies by dint of Dee Dee Penny’s effortlessly cool, sugary croons. Make no mistake: as a self-confessed “choir nerd”, Dee Dee (real name Kristin Gundred) has the vocal chops to see off all competitors.

It was she who initiated the band as a bedroom project before roping in the likes of drummer Frankie Rose (ex of both [b]Crystal Stilts[/b] and – yes – [b]Vivian Girls[/b]). Both sticking to the garage rock template of outsider gang-dom and upsetting the genre’s canonical history as a tiresomely male-dominated field (the band’s name is a pointed play on a song from international man of mayhem Iggy Pop’s solo debut [b]‘The Idiot’[/b]), this rollicking debut album is a balance-redressing, cliché-bucking tonic.

[b]‘It Only Takes One Night’[/b] possesses both the frenzy and the cool of [b]The Cramps[/b]’ signature sound, but in place of that band’s raw weirdness there’s the lulling breeze of Dee Dee’s vocal, evocative of a sedated Eartha Kitt. The record strays far beyond the basics of rockabilly and garage rock: [b]‘Yours Alone’[/b] may feature [a]Yeah Yeah Yeahs[/a]’ [b]Nick Zinner[/b] on reverberating, fuzzy guitar, but the tenderness of Dee Dee’s vocal transcends genre boundaries: [i]“Met him at the school yard, five years old/Told him I would love him ’til I’m cold/We held hands, we took walks/My first kiss was at the docks… All my love is yours alone”[/i]. Rather than a mere stylistic nod to the girl group sound, [b]Dum Dum Girls[/b] offer a subtle-toned exploration of the politics of the personal of which [b]Ellie Greenwich[/b] would be proud, typified by latest single [b]‘Jail La La’[/b], which is equally lustful and sentimental.

[b]‘Bhang Bhang, I’m A Burnout’[/b] recalls the dulcet tones of [a]The Breeders[/a] circa [b]‘Divine Hammer’[/b], while [b]‘Oh Mein Me’[/b] takes its cue from Kim and Kelley Deal’s very own [b]‘German Studies’[/b] textbook. Yet the song is not just an exhilarating journey into the foreign languages, but an analysis of the rollercoaster ride of love at first sight.

Admittedly, [b]‘I Will Be’[/b] at times lacks the raw kinetic energy and fury that surged through early single [b]‘Catholicked’[/b]. The decision to exclude that song from the album is an unfathomable act to say the least. Still, there’s more than enough here to compensate for such minor misgivings: ultimately, ‘I Will Be’ is a convincing retort from an unfairly maligned band. Over to you, [b]Vivian Girls[/b].

[b]Ash Dosanjh[/b]

[i]What do you think of the album? Let us know by posting a comment below.[/i]

Click here to get your copy of Dum Dum Girls’ ‘I Will Be’ from the Rough Trade shop