By Judy Tate
Only In Dreams, the second album from female four piece Dum Dum Girls does not adhere to the sometime equation of brilliant debut album = average, not as good second album. Having listened to both I Will Be the band’s debut record from 2010 and their recent release Only In Dreams, I felt I Will Be lacked excitement with only two standout tracks, in ‘Bhang Bhang, I’m A Burnout’ and ‘Jail La La’. Only In Dreams on the other hand was exactly what I wanted and expected from the indie post-punkers, and not in a predictable, tedious way but in a pleasing and entertaining manner.
Originally a solo project of singer/songwriter Kristen Gundred, or Dee Dee – her stage name and no doubt nod to cited influences The Ramones – she was snapped up by Sub Pop in 2009. This signing led to an expansion of the band into a four piece with the additions of Jules, Bambi and Sandy. The band are currently at the head of an extensive string of dates including an expedition across the US, European shows, and then a foray through the UK, topped off with several gigs in Italy.
Produced by Richard Gottehrer, who previously worked with the likes of Blondie and The Raveonettes (the relation being easily audible in the overall sound of the album), Only In Dreams brings together sounds of the New York indie scene with a hint of California surf rock – the band’s clear influences meander through the majority of the record. Opening track ‘Always Looking’ instantly channels a Ramones drum style and, with the punctuating backing vocals, fires the record off to a pacey start. ‘Bedroom Eyes’ follows with its late seventies Debbie Harry vocals mixed with a sort of Shoegaze dreamy sound.
The third track of the album ‘Just a Creep’ is the central crossover of the New York/California scenes in the record, with the continuation of the Ramones drum style and Blondie vocals backed up with the Dick Dale ‘Misirlou’ style guitar riff. ‘In My Head’ siphons a deeper side of the album with clear emotion embedded in Gundred’s vocals and lyrics, speaking of loneliness and abandonment although not lacking the perpetual pace of earlier. This more melancholy track is abruptly uplifted by ‘Heartbeat’, the main feature of which is Dee Dee’s vocals – they’re impressive throughout the whole record, but are possibly best presented here at their most supple and super flexible.
The album as a whole, though perhaps a slight too overwhelmed by their named influences, is controlled magnificently by Dee Dee’s lead vocals, supported and punctuated by the backing vocals, interspersed with punchy guitar riffs and topped off with the reliable undercurrent of percussion. In summary, what we have here is the depositing of musical elements, with the result being the ever cool, effortlessly hip and just generally quite fun Dum Dum Girls’ second record.