It can be difficult to gain a balanced perspective on an album after reading a single summary of the music. Bias can tilt a review, as can personal taste, history and just about everything else that is unique to the person writing it. So in an effort to offer an expanded perspective in such a medium, here are four reactions, four impressions, Four Takes on Only in Dreams by Dum Dum Girls.
I have mixed feelings about the new record from Dum Dum Girls. On one hand, I heartily applaud that the gals have broadened their sound. Where they started out as just one of many throwback, 60’s-nostalgic “girl groups” the Dum Dum’s have started to show that they aren’t just a one-gimmick pony. Only In Dreams branches out into 70’s AM rock, country, and modern pop. I definitely think that this is the right move for them since our current 60’s infatuation can only last so long (though it’s not quite over yet).
At the same time while I enthusiastically back the band’s stylistic adventurousness, I feel like they are still trying to figure out where they stand. The new record awkwardly straddles the span between the light pop fare of its first half and its meatier backend, which features standouts “”Wasted Away” and “Teardrops on My Pillow,” both of which are terrific forays into new territory. Its territory I would like to see the band explore further but they don’t seem quite ready yet to follow that impulse completely (see “Bedroom Eyes” for the other end of the spectrum). As it stands I think that I like where the Dum Dum Girls are heading, but with Only In Dreams I think they are only halfway there.
Erica Krumm (Oaks, Wunky Zine)
Although Dum Dum Girls’ new record, Only In Dreams, is a poppy, light and sometimes ALMOST fun listening experience, it feels dull and uninspired, like the record was written in a single, bored weekend.
Unlike the Girls’ last record, I will Be, Only In Dreams, lacks the same moody sexiness, and is drastically less emotive. The Songs, “Wasted Away,” and “Bedroom Eyes,” are clever and inarguably catchy, which is what Dum Dum Girls do best. Here they channel later Go Go’s poppy summertime punk complete with Belinda Carlisle-esq vocals. However, these songs lack the needed sincerity and purposefulness required to pull off such simplicity. The song, “Coming Down” begins dreamy and enchanting, but lasts for six plus minutes without vision. A seemingly endless chain of breakdowns and repeated choruses.
There are things that the Dum Dum Girls do very well here. Front woman, Dee Dee, has a voice that is easy on the ears and there are many strands of thoughtful and pretty harmonies as well as very decent surfy guitar hooks.
This much too tasteful and simple record failed to capture my heart or keep my attention after many determined listens, but I wont give up hope that someday the Dum Dum Girls will be blasted in my living room again.
Dee Dee, Jules, Bambi and Sandy join back for a second time around in their sophomore effort, “Only In Dreams,” and for those expecting another “I Will Be”, you can quell that fear to rest as you hear the hell-or-high-water onslaught that is “Always Looking”. Elsewhere on this disc, you get a nice modern rock radio jam in “Bedroom Eyes,” which is heavy and dreamy, rare of a rock jam to do, while “Just A Creep” has some elements of rockabilly with the syncopated claps flailing about. There’s also the 6-minute epic “Come Down” which definitely slows things down, and quickly steals the show as the highlight of the record, definitely provides one who isn’t familiar with a chance to take in their vibe, and definitely you get to hear Dee Dee’s Beach Boys reincarnation in the meantime. The great thing about Only In Dreams is that the band plays like there’s nothing to lose, and pretty much every element in each of the songs don’t take time out for real solos, which is rare for a rock record, where you were used to some solo slashing every now and then, and perhaps because most of the songs such as “Wasted Away” and “In My Head” just does what few records can do in a half hour, and that’s just to play and sound like you’re having fun while doing that. The fact that the record is only a half hour and some change gives it a great deal of replay value too, aside from “Come Down” nary a song barely crosses the 2-4 minute mark. In a nutshell, Only In Dreams is a great follow up for Dee Dee and company, they’ve crafted another good record that provides great pop sensibility in a post-punk genre.
I have said many, many times that I am a sucker for a strong female vocals and some fuzzy garage-pop, so Dum Dum Girls have always been a winning proposition to me. While they haven’t created a single, self standing document that has pushed me over the top, I have really enjoyed their output so far (one LP + a few EP’s and 7″‘s) and can say the same about their Sub Pop released sophomore LP Only In Dreams. While the easy comparision has, and probably always will be, the fuzz pop work of Shop Assistants and Black Tamborine, I think the group actually traffics closer to a hybrid of scuzzy pop/punk and dramatic Smiths pop, mainly centered around the emotive vocals band centerpiece Dee Dee (Kristen Gundred). After covering the Smiths on a recent EP, the vocal inferences and wringing of every ounce of emotion from each word, a la the Moz, are even more apparent on songs on Only in Dreams, especially tracks like “Bedroom Eyes.” While some songs, like “In My Head,” veer in swooning, faux romance and others bend towards outright cheesy (“Caught in One”), the album to me is redeemed by the amazing track “Coming Down,” which is a long, brooding highlight of the record. While I wish I could say Only in Dreams is the definitive album that I could point to as why I like Dum Dum Girls, that just isn’t the case. That just means it is another batch of songs, most of which are good to above average, that help keep me in her corner. Now if she could just collect that lightning in one bottle, it would be a beautiful thing.
Dum Dum Girls will be at the Turf Club on Oct. 12th with Crocodiles