By Russell Warfield
Whether you like the fact or not, it’s becoming clear that ‘Coming Down’ was not just the emotional centrepiece of the fine Only In Dreams LP, but also a pivot upon which the entire Dum Dum Girls trajectory is turning. Of course, Dum Dum Girls have always primarily been a vehicle of necessity for delivering Dee Dee’s material, but ever since ‘Coming Down’ – and never more so than with this End Of Daze EP – there’s been an even more pronounced foregrounding of Dee Dee’s vocal, song writing and personality. This is an approach which, while boasting certain emotional merits, has the effect of marginalising her backing band to the detriment of the entire sound, and more crucially shows the cracks in song writing which strives for a maturity it hasn’t yet achieved.
Dum Dum Girls have always plied a clutch of down tempo numbers for every peppy ‘Jail La La’ they offer up. But back on the earlier recordings, whether owing to the low-fi aesthetic or the more conspicuously present backing band, there was a twinkle to the recordings all but completely lost when thinned to the self serious chugging of solitary guitar which backbones ‘Mine Tonight’ or the lazy rat-a-tat drum shuffle of ‘I Got Nothing’. With the expansion of their sound into reverberating, hazy, dream-pop, Dum Dum Girls have ironically fallen to sounding a lot smaller – failing to fill the space they’ve opened up for themselves in their own production. And with a clutch of tracks which continue to conform to Dee Dee’s simplistic song writing approach of choruses with one repeated melodic phrase and one repeated lyric, the further reduction in the presence of the other musicians become all the more keenly felt.
It feels unnatural to be being so critical about a band whose recent output has charmed me so much, especially when End Of Daze isn’t such a radical departure for the band at all. But the disappointment lies in the fact that they’ve split the difference on End Of Daze between where they were on the early recordings, and the exciting territories they’ve been hinting at exploring more recently – but managed to do so while keeping a foot in the worst of both boats, rather than taking the strength of what they’ve already achieved and delivering on the promise of where they might’ve ended up.
To be fair to Dee Dee, the final track’s confession that “it’s been a season in hell” provides a timely reminder that she’s currently writing and performing in the immediate shadow of a lost parent – a more than understandable explanation for the recent turn towards the dark and the dour. But the song which reminds us of the explanation for the melancholy also encouragingly offers optimism and hope. “Doesn’t the dawn look divine?” Dee Dee asks, before announcing that “it’s the end of daze” with a sense of rejuvenation. And apart from the lyrical signposts, it’s more simply the most upbeat and vital track of the bunch – bringing the Girls’ instrumentation and backing vocals a little closer to centre, and offering welcome indication that this damp period of Dee Dee’s creative output might be coming to a close. So while End Of Daze is ultimately a disappointing step away from the promise of their recent output, we’re still left with every reason to believe that Dum Dum Girls can yet fulfil their obvious potential, and look to do so by moving back towards material combining the vibrancy of their early material with the depth of feeling for which they’re clearly striving.