When it comes to the dreaded sophomore album, artists usually move in one of two directions: They either craft a worthy sequel that at least matches the success of their debut, or they crash and burn. Only in Dreams isn’t a failure, but it’s not a rousing triumph either. Instead, the Dum Dum Girls’ second LP is a lesser version of the work found on 2010’s I Will Be.
Most of the album can be boiled down to a simple formula. Nearly every song starts with a sudden crash into the verse’s chord structure. The driving guitars, bass, and drums are smothered in heavy reverb and atmospherics that disguise any subtle differences found in the progressions. Seven out of the 10 songs here follow this pattern. If you heard the first single “Bedroom Eyes”, you’ve heard more than half the record. Out of everything here, only “Always Looking” and its Dick Dale-channeling guitar line comes close to the catchiness of last album’s “Jail La La”.
It’s not all bad, though. “Just a Creep” moves from a sweet and sluggish opening into a goth’s dream version of a summer beach song. While the six-minute “Coming Down” gives Only in Dreams what many other tracks are missing: a chance of pace and a sense of weight. The song builds with Sandy’s welcome lead foot on the drums and crescendos into some impressively held notes from Dee Dee, followed by a sharp guitar solo.
If you loved I Will Be because of its reverb-heavy surf rock vibe, you’ll likely enjoy Only in Dreams. However, casual fans may want to err on the side of caution. There are some songs to love, but you can only take so many variations of the same theme.
Essential Tracks: “Always Looking” and “Coming Down”