Daily Archives: May 4, 2010

Jacobo: The Dum Dums Girls make re-imagined, reverb-bathed 60s pop and 70s punk

On the Dum Dum Girls’ MySpace page, the Los Angeles-based indie outfit categorize themselves in deadpan fashion as Melodramatic Popular Song. Certainly, it’s a bit more complex than that. Take in a wide range of influences: Iggy Pop (who notably wrote a song titled “Dum Dum Boys”), Patti Smith, Billy Holiday, The Ronettes, early-1960s pop. Give it a modern aloofness, a concern for self. Mix in a fascination with lo-fi music. That’s their sound. You can hear that wall of fuzzy warmth scratching throughout their songs, blending in with the vocals and making the steady kick of the drumming really stand out. It’s a unique set of influences for a modern band with such retro aspirations.

Dum Dum Girls is the brainchild of Dee Dee Penny, who originally started the group out as her solo project. She expanded the group to add Jules (on guitar), Bambi (bass) and Sandy Vu (drums) before signing with Sub Pop in 2009. The group’s first full-length LP, “I Will Be,” was released on March 30, 2010. They manage to stuff 11 songs into 28 minutes of music.

“I Will Be” starts off with a bang, and the Dum Dum Girls relentlessly stripped down sound doesn’t let off—sometimes they slow it down, but usually the songs are loud, fast and in your face, the vocals reverberating and full of static so sometimes you can’t hear what Dee Dee is singing, the guitar and bass blending into the wall of noise, the drumming lively, sure and steady, a heartbeat to give life to this sometimes schizophrenic sound.

They are four women dressed in black sucking on colorful Dum Dum suckers, playing an infusion of punk and pop, a mix of old and new, of archaic, simplistic pop given an edginess by its lack of fidelity and the resulting dissonance.

And then there’s that haunting album cover, like something dug out of a box of forgotten trinkets in hot attic or a dusty, forgotten closet. A woman dressed in red, hair down, freckles dotting her cheeks. Endlessly intriguing for what it doesn’t say, what’s left to be imagined. It’s a picture of Dee Dee’s mother, young and free, with that untelling look on her face, a lot like the girl from Vampire Weekend’s “Contra” album—though the two look strangely similar, the LPs they adorn couldn’t be more different.

Official website: http://wearedumdumgirls.com/
Check out: “Oh Mein Me,” track 3; “Blank Girl,” track 7; “I Will Be,” track 8

Dum Dum Girls are touring the West Coast this summer, playing at the Hawthorne Theatre in Portland on June 25. The all-ages show starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10.

Jordan Jacobo
Columnist Jordan Jacobo can be reached at linfieldreviewopinion@gmail.com

Photo courtesy of Sub Pop

Ter Horst: ‘Alice in Wonderland’: imaginitive or drug-induced?

Imagine an anthropomorphic white rabbit leading you into his underground hole. As you fall down deep, you hit a door with a talking doorknob. Behind it lies a world where nothing is what it seems. The fact that everything you eat and drink will make you smaller or bigger is not helping either. The only creature that seems to be willing to help you is a talking cat, and on top of that, the Queen of Hearts decided it’s “off with your head!” All very adult issues at the least, I would say.

I had just popped my “Alice in Wonderland”-cherry in Ice Auditorium, and I was overwhelmed. This clumsy first time with young and modern Tim Burton had answered questions, but raised others that could only be answered by a new partner. And so I approached a much older and more experienced male.

Surely English author Lewis Caroll was poking fun at the moralistic novels so common in his time, when he published his novel “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” in 1865. The tale’s play with logic and multiple wordplays made the story popular with adults as well as children. It encouraged readers to use their imagination and follow creative rational pathways. Where had Lewis Caroll picked up this wisdom? LSD had not been around yet during that time, but was the mushroom fed to Alice inspired by the immemorial magic mushroom? Doctors prescribed opium as a medicine easily at that time, but Caroll’s diaries do not mention any drug use once.

Apparently the writer of this fairytale passed away a little while ago, leaving my questions unanswered. As I moved on, wealth caught my eye and I started seeing mister Walt Disney (unfortunately, also dead). He produced his animated “Alice in Wonderland” movie in 1951. Was his “Alice”-movie intentionally about a drug trip then? It would not surprise me, as naughty Walt had educated his young fans about taboos before: In the Lion King the petals that ascend into the air as Simba lies down in the grass seem to spell the word “SEX”, and the old priest in “The Little Mermaid” has been pointing out to having an erection under his robe.

If the story is a reference to one drug trip after another, including a caterpillar smoking hookah while sitting on a mushroom with magic powers, I still do not know, but it is not what is important either. What made “Alice in Wonderland” – new and old – such a good movie is the lack of a real plot, so that the audience can truly focus on the fun that imagination and playing with language can cause.

Doris ter Horst
Columnist Doris ter Horst can be reached at linfieldreviewopinion@gmail.com

Photo courtesy of RCA
Video courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures