Female-fronted, fuzzed out garage rock seems to be decidedly in these days: Best Coast and Vivian Girls to name (possibly) the most prominent two. And if you’ve been asking for more, here it is: Dum Dum Girls.
After floating around in indie-dom, Dum Dum Girls leader Dee Dee (as she seems to go by, according to the internet) signed on with that old industry bastion Sub Pop for an official debut. And just from this information, you’ve got a good deal of base laid for understanding I Will Be. That’s not to say the record doesn’t stand on its own two feet. But a few references and a label you’ve heard goes a pretty far way on this one (and I mean that in a relatively positive way).
From the outset of opener “It Only Takes One Night”, it’s pretty clear where this one’s headed: punk-y rock, walls of distorted guitar, and hook-happy vocals. “Bhang Bhang, I’m a Burnout” kicks up next, repeating those first two words sweetly, inexplicable h and all. I’d wager it’s a bit of a Nancy Sinatra shout-out, but maybe that’s just me. Maybe Nancy Sinatra by way of the Ramones. The simplistic garage rock’s there, along with the poppy female vocals and the references to being burned out.
This far in to the review, I’m starting to realize it’s a little silly to have given early mentions to Best Coast and Vivian Girls without having mentioned the male half of the indie world’s current fuzzy garage/surf rock predilection. Is the big difference between Dum Dum Girls and, say, Wavves (Nathan Williams has to have a lot of the same pedals/influences) their respective genders? Well, Dee Dee and the rest of the Girls go in for harmonies more than Williams. The lo-fi is a little less literally lo than it is buried in generated fuzz (I’d wager Sub Pop is at least partially responsible for that). Other than that, it seems to me they’re from the same school. So, in essence, I’d like to move on from my near-sighted, gender-biased intro. But, I’m going to still make references to other females in this review. Okay? Okay.
The tougher edge of the vocal lead on “Oh Mein Me” suits the group a little better than the sweetheart melodies. If you’re going to put 11 songs on a record and have them fill out at about 30 minutes, they should be direct and to-the-point. The extended, grunge-whiney melody is mixed way up, crackling pretty loudly. Just after that, “Jail La La” is pretty damn funny. The vocals are girl-group sweet, the lyrics not so much. “Someone tell my baby,” Dee Dee croons, from her holding cell. The melody and harmonies are spot-on, the wordless patches of vocals fun, bright, and cheery. It’s a well put-together track all around, one that’ll be gracing plenty of summer playlists.
“Yours Alone”, featuring axe-work by Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner, mixes some dissonance in with its sugar. A line like “My first kiss was at the docks” sounds like a bit much out of context, but with the fuzzed, feedbacky guitar looming above the pop song, it doesn’t really bother that much. The down-tempo “Blank Girl” is pretty good, too. References to Nancy Drew in a surfy mess of fuzz works. It just works. The boy-girl vocals are instant throwback, and a nice change of pace.
To be frank, I see myself picking out a few of the tracks and listening to them over and over a few times (“Jail La La” particularly) and skipping a few others. It’s a good record. Maybe even very good. But I don’t see it standing out above those aforementioned similar bands, male or female. It should make its way out of the mess of bandwagon jumpers (whoever finds the original rider on that wagon would have to be a genius), but it’s definitely not the leader of the pack.
I can’t believe I just made that lame joke, either.