If you were listening to music way back in 2009, you probably heard Camera Obscura’s album My Maudlin Career. You probably enjoyed the hell out of it, but wondered, “Where are the guitars?” Well, if you thought that, this album is for you.
Dum Dum Girls is the brainchild of Dee Dee Penny, and her mercurial rise has been astonishing. Originally formed as a solo act, she was signed to Sub Pop in ’09, added three more members, and put out the debut I Will Be in March of last year. Now, a scant 18 months later, Dum Dum Girls is being lauded as one of the best bands around.
It’s easy to see why they’re earning such praise. Their style of Ronettes/grrl rock is a joy to listen to. Only In Dreams is one of those albums you throw on and hear the first few chords and instantly like. One big draw for me is that they don’t try to modernize their style. It’s 60’s pop all the way, lyrically and musically. They do put a little more grunge in it than Phil Spector might have liked, but that only makes it better.
The substance of Only In Dreams is made up of teenage love songs that fit in the mold of something you’d hear at the “Enchantment Under The Sea” dance. There’s a lot of yearning going on here, and a lot of anguish. Dee Dee sells both with equal aplomb and the music forms an ethereal backdrop for high school romance.
The highlight of the album, for me, comes a little over halfway through, with the song “Coming Down.” According to the band, one of their influences is Mazzy Starr, and on this one my answer would be a sarcastic “Really? I never would have guessed.” It’s so drenched in that fuzzy “Fade Into You” haze that I just can’t help but zone everything else out when I hear it. The opening guitar riff is the same in both songs, with a slightly different tempo, I think. The lyrics are very different though. Here’s some from Dum Dum Girls version:
You abuse the ones who love you
You abuse the ones who won’t
If you ever had a real heart
I don’t think you’d know where to start
Cause I think I’m coming down, I think I’m coming down
The two songs do share themes, and if anything I think this “Coming Down” is their way of paying tribute to one of their favorite bands. They did themselves a favor by making it such a damn good song.
That’s just one highlight in a series of many on Only In Dreams. With this and Girls Father, Son, Holy Ghost, I’m starting to wonder if 60’s pop has finally hit it’s resurgent peak. Those two, as well as Smith Westerns and countless others (Camera Obscura, even The Magic Numbers-kind of), have brought the genre back to the precipice of mainstream. And they do it with no inkling of irony or jest. It’s pure nostalgic love of the period and the music that makes music like this so great.
You can download “Coming Down” over at Dum Dum Girls website for free, and I would definitely recommend doing so. Only In Dreams doesn’t hit stores until September 27th, but I would pre-order it today. The band is going out on tour with Crocodiles as support starting in October. They’ll be hitting Empty Bottle here in Chicago on the 14th of October, and hopefully we will be able to make it out.