Emerging in 2009 with a lo-fi sound and a ’60s aesthetic, Dum Dum Girls were a band like many others. Kohl-eyed and leather-clad with a fondness for fuzz tones, their debut album I Will Be sat snugly amongst releases by Best Coast and Vivian Girls. What set them apart from their contemporaries however, is the almighty voice of Kristen ‘Dee Dee’ Gundred. A singer of unmistakable power and soul, it’s here on second album Only In Dreams that she really shines.
This is, in no small part due to the loss of her mother to cancer – a subject addressed in woozy highlight ‘Coming Down’ and closing lament ‘Hold Your Hand’. The former, a Mazzy Star-indebted torch ballad, sees Dee Dee move from sorrowful croon to operatic bellow in the space of six minutes. By all accounts it’s new territory for the Dum Dums, but a welcome addition to an album really lacking in variety.
Also notable on this second release, is its cleaner production. Although teamed up again with Richard Gotterher (Blondie) and Sune Rose Wagner (The Raveonettes), punkier sounds of yore have been replaced by a new wave sheen. With the band’s former squall pushed back in the mix, the overall effect is dense and dull. As the influence of The Pretenders rears its head on ‘Heartbeat’ and ‘Bedroom Eyes’, the acronym M.O.R springs to mind.
There are still some moments of biker charm though – namely opening track ‘Always Looking’ and the lip curled disdain of ‘Just A Creep’. Once again Dee Dee’s voice is the crux of their appeal, flipping her switch between smooth and scathing. It’s these brief, brittle reminders of their garage pop past that suggest the Dum Dum Girls are a band in transition. Caught between commercial desires and well-established traits, Only In Dreams is a confusing listen. Things come into focus with the aforementioned ‘Hold Your Hand’, but ultimately it’s a case of not a girl, not yet a woman. Perhaps they just need more time.