New York's Dee Dee Penny pays homage to her favourite gloomy bands and poets
As she tells it, Dum Dum Girls leader Dee Dee Penny locked herself away in her New York apartment in the summer of 2012 ready to draw a line under the two albums and four EPs that thus far comprised her band’s discography. She wanted to move on. She wanted to write the record that would grant her access to the rock’n’roll pantheon, where she could brush shoulders with a list of luminaries she helpfully spelled out: Suede, Siouxsie And The Banshees, “Cold-wave” Patti Smith, Madonna, The Cure, both “Velvet and Paisley Undergrounds” and The Stone Roses. You can’t accuse her of lacking ambition.
‘Too True’ isn’t the record to make her legend, but it is a fine homage to all those leather-clad heroes. It’s an album that could have been written, recorded and released on any day since 1979, and if you heard it without context you’d be forgiven for placing it closer to 1984 than 2014. That said, there’s fun to be had looking back.
As for making a break with her own band’s past, Penny has dropped much of her inclination towards the Phil Spector girl-group sound in favour of gloomy, gothy chic and an unmistakable ’80s sheen. The highpoint is the almost-title track ‘Too True To Be Good’, which shares its name and very little else with a late-era George Bernard Shaw play. It’s a sweet pop hit with a heart of narcotic fuzz, like mainlining a sugarcoated speedball.
Penny is never afraid of wearing her influences too brazenly, and this goes for her lyrics as much as for her sonic tributes. ‘Rimbaud Eyes’ is a direct reference to decadent French poet Arthur Rimbaud, who Penny cites as an influence along with his lover Paul Verlaine and the likes of Charles Baudelaire and Sylvia Plath. ‘Lost Boys And Girls Club’ comes across like a Siouxsie single slowed down and sung by an ennui-filled Pat Benatar.
By drinking deep from the coolest records and the hippest poets, Penny succeeds in beginning a new chapter for her band. Whether she makes it into the canon herself will have to wait for album number four.
Kevin EG Perry