Blissed out buzzsaw.
-- MySpace tagline
I usually try to avoid thoroughly retro releases, but a record that
sounds RIGHT NOW! with overt references to the past is more
than okay by me. In fact, I'd say it's ideal, and the Dum Dum
Girls navigate that tricky path with élan. L.A. singer/songwriter
Kristin Gundred, AKA Dee Dee, turned to producer Richard Got-
tehrer (Blondie) for her first album, which lends it a girl-group-
post-punk feel that never quite crosses the line into new wave.
Click here for "He Gets Me High."
Gundred also solicits licks from Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick
Zinner, which reinforces the NYC impression, and yet her quartet
doesn't sound exactly like any of the bands to emerge from that
area (then there's her alias, which recalls Dee Dee Ramone).
When I mentioned that I was looking forward to getting the
full-length, after hearing a few songs online and on the radio,
a friend quipped, "You're welcome to borrow my Shop Assis-
tants albums," and the Dum Dum Girls do recall the UK's
celebrated C86 era, but again, they aren't reproducing it.
As with the Vivian Girls, who once claimed drummer Frankie
Rose, they draw as much from the 1960s—the Shangri-Las, Nan-
cy Sinatra, etc.—as from the '70s and '80s. Then there are the Sub
Pop outfits of the '90s, like Velocity Girl. Or K Records acts, like
Lois. Or even the Aisler's Set. They echo those sounds, as well.
So, Gundred isn't reinventing the wheel. Then again, it isn't call-
ing out for reinvention. More importantly, she has the songs, the
voice, and the attitude. If you're gonna sing, "My baby's better
than you," you need to sell it, or you'll sound like you don't real-
ly mean it, but Gundred does (the credit, "Many thanks to my
anchor, my husband Brandon" adds weight to her claim).
I Will Be comes on with such
force and conviction, in fact,
that you'll know within the
first few seconds whether it's
for you or not, meaning that
the immediate attraction I felt
could translate into immedi-
ate dissatisfaction for a listen-
er of different sensibilities.
In any case, the more I listen, the more I hear: the way Gundred
channels Siouxsie's dusky tones on "It Only Takes One Night," ev-
en though the music never gives in to the gloom of goth, or the
way that "Bhang Bhang, I'm a Burnout—which sounds more
like "I'm a porno"—recalls Britain's Primitives (who only
released one record of note, but it sounded as much like
an instant classic in 1989 as I Will Be does now).
Click here for "Bhang Bhang, I'm a Burnout."
If the Dum Dum Girls have a clear leader, they're still a
band, and Jules and Bambi round out the line-up, giving Gun-
dred's songs the ballast they need. It's only April, so it's too soon
to proclaim I Will Be the year's best debut—although at 29 min-
utes, it's certainly one of the shortest—but it's doubtful I'll hear
a better one between now and and the end of December.
Endnote: Subject header from The New York Times, i.e. "Dum
Dum Girls, from Los Angeles, is the project of singer Kristin Gun-
dred, who here goes by Dee Dee, and who sings tart lyrics in a
sweet tone buried beneath layers of haze." ("Dum Dum Girl" is
the title of a Talk Talk song.) The band plays Neumos on 10/22,
opening for the Vaselines. For more information, please click
here or here. Images from Sub Pop and The L.A. Times.