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.
Columnist Jordan Jacobo can be reached at email@example.com
Photo courtesy of Sub Pop