Music

Dum Dum Girls: I Will Be

Dum Dum Girls aren't just indie-pop girl-group revivalists. They're also making their own history on I Will Be, their standout debut.


Dum Dum Girls

I Will Be

Label: Sub Pop
US Release Date: 2010-03-30
UK Release Date: 2010-03-29
Amazon
iTunes

Dum Dum Girls' striking debut I Will Be might fool you into thinking it's only a fun, rollicking romp down memory lane, but the album really is the sound of a band making its own history. Sure, it's hard not to notice how the L.A. quartet hits many of pop's high points from the '60s to the present. While it's the lollypop girl-group vocals that'll get you at first, the band's attitude comes straight out of '70s and '80s punk, only filtered through a '90s grrrl-powered aesthetic. Part of the fun of I Will Be is figuring out whether lead Dum Dum Kristin Gundred is channeling Ronnie Spector or Belinda Carlisle, and if her "Dee Dee" stage moniker is namechecking the Ramones or if she just wants to be your Joey Ramone, à la early Sleater-Kinney. As it turns out, the band name is referential in two very appropriate ways, as a retort to Iggy Pop's "Dum Dum Boys" and a hat tip to a Vaselines album.

These reference points might already be dated, though, since Dum Dum Girls are leading lights among a current movement of women rockers breaking into the lo-fi boys club. Just check out this Los Angeles Times feature that lumps them in with like-minded Southern California acts Best Coast and Pearl Harbor. But what sets Dum Dum Girls apart from their peers is the ambition they show on I Will Be. While the band could've gotten by just on the pop instincts and gritty cool that garnered attention for their early recordings, Dee Dee and the Girls have gone all out in crafting a tight, wallop-packing record that holds nothing back.

Those expecting the murky vocals and fuzzy hiss of the band's previous work won't know what hit them once "It Only Takes One Night" roars out of the gate with its gleaming, slicing guitars and crisp rhythms. The opening song validates Gundred's foresight in bringing aboard producer Richard Gottehrer, known for credits like "My Boyfriend's Back" and "I Want Candy", since his deft hand gives I Will Be a treatment that helps it stand out from offerings by the likes of Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts. The collaboration pays off, too, on would-be punk-pop hits like "Bhang Bhang, I'm a Burnout" and the title song, which sound bulked up and polished up at the same time. Best of all is the bubblegum single "Jail La La", where Dee Dee plays the tough girl who can't quite get away with it when she sings, "Someone call my baby / Or else he won't know I need saving," though she hardly sounds like anyone who needs rescuing.

Even when it seems like a change in pace and tone might be in order, Dum Dum Girls prove that they're good enough at what they do that there's never a need for a break in the action. "Yours Alone" recalls cuddlecore only with more guts and drive, making over the lovelorn ditties of forgotten twee favorites like Black Tambourine, Tallulah Gosh, and Tiger Trap. "Rest of Our Lives" whips up a whole lot of wistful, blissful feedback that sounds like it picks up where the Jesus and Mary Chain left off with Psychocandy, while the girl-boy duet "Blank Girl" could teach the Raveonettes a thing or two about sexual tension and slowburned yearning as Dee Dee goes back-and-forth with Brandon Welchez of the Crocodiles. Indeed, Welchez's lines describe best the progress Dum Dum Girls make on I Will Be: "It's so sweet to see you make it / On your own from duck to swan." That it's easy to mishear "make it" as "naked" on the track speaks to Dum Dum Girls' appeal, since the lyric works both ways, summing up what the band achieves on the album, while hinting at the sly come-ons and subtle turn-ons of I Will Be.

All in all, Dum Dum Girls have come into their own with a rare debut effort on which everything comes together in a way where reach and grasp go hand-in-hand. In short, I Will Be suggests that the Dum Dum Girls' future is now.

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Music

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Painting by Mariusz Lewandowski. Cover of Bell Witch's Mirror Reaper.

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Beware the seemingly merry shades of green and red that spread so slowly and thickly across the holiday season, for something dark and uncertain, something that takes many forms, stirs beneath the joyful facade.

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Two mermaid sisters (Marta Mazurek, Michalina Olszanska) can summon legs at will to mingle on shore with the band at a Polish disco, where their siren act is a hit. In this dark reinvention of Hans Christian Andersen's already dark The Little Mermaid, one love-struck sister is tempted to sacrifice her fishy nature for human mortality while her sister indulges moments of bloodlust. Abetted by writer Robert Bolesto and twin sister-musicians Barbara and Zuzanna Wronska, director Agnieszka Smoczynska offers a woman's POV on the fairy tale crossed with her glittery childhood memories of '80s Poland. The result: a bizarre, funy, intuitive genre mash-up with plenty of songs. This Criterion disc offers a making-of and two short films by Smoczynska, also on musical subjects.

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The hero (Tom Meeten) tells his therapist that in his dreams, some things are very detailed and others are vague. This movie tells you bluntly what it's up to: a Möbius strip narrative that loops back on itself , as attributed to the diabolical therapists for their cosmic purposes. Then we just wait for the hero to come full circle and commit the crime that, as a cop, he's supposedly investigating. But this doesn't tell us whether he's really an undercover cop pretending to be depressed, or really a depressive imagining he's a cop, so some existential mysteries will never be answered. It's that kind of movie, indebted to David Lynch and other purveyors of nightmarish unreality. Arrow's disc offers a making-of, a commentary from writer-director Gareth Tunley and Meeten along with a producer, and a short film from Tunley and Meeten.

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(Available from Warner Bros.)

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