Dum Dum Girls have an intellect that vastly belies their name. We’ve had the angry ‘Gary Gilmore’s Eyes’ by The Adverts, we’ve had the dreamy ‘Bette Davis’ Eyes’ by Kim Carnes but Dum Dum Girls really up the ante and make those brows raise higher with ‘Rimbaud Eyes’.
And that’s not all; they quote Rainer-Marie Rilke as an influence too. I was once given a copy of Rilke’s Letters To A Young Poet with the inscription and epithet “If ever in doubt” and it’s held me in good stead and held true for the Dum Dum Girls. It’s basically the nom de plume of song writer and auteur Dee Dee Penny, and her band, and music operate on a nefarious multitude of knowing levels that can be gleefully unpicked.
Let’s return for starters to the name Dum Dum Girls. On the basest level it could range from ironic self-deprecation to a band that packs a punch with a pistol and a now banned projectile. Of course if we’re talking rock & roll, it’s both homage to The Vaseline’s album Dum Dum, a band to which Penny is obviously in thrall and the Iggy Pop song “Dum Dum Boys”. Meanwhile her own moniker Dee Dee is an unabashed lift from the Ramones.
Between tours of her End of Daze EP on Sub Pop in 2012, she had collected enough songs to release a new album she thought and feeling energised wanted to test them out live. More were thrown up on the road, so she engendered to commit to record at East West Studios, LA, hoping to rub off on some of the magic of Pet Sounds also recorded there way back when discord struck her vocal chords, or so it seemed.
The time off though allowed re-evaluation and a whole lot of time for an already supremely literate lyricist to catch up on some reading – the kind of reading you know you should, but never have time for. The kind of reading that shouldn’t be disturbed by snapchat or swiping right – Rilke, Baudelaire, Plath with a steady diet of cerebral noise from her spiritual parents Patti Smith and Lou Reed. It meant the songs were revisited, and reinvigorated. And if they were skeletal before, they are full of feeling and spectral of sound now, as this is quite clearly a great pop album. The kind of clever album Lady GaGa thinks she’s made several times over but never come close.
Of course you can hear leanings of some of her contemporaries, Vivian Girls, Crystal Stilts and Frankie Rose (an inaugural member of Dum Dum Girls), and with lead song ‘Lost Boys And Girls Club’ there’s an echo in title at least to The Strange Boys album And Girls Club. However, there’s also definite and welcome echoes of Cyndi Lauper, Madonna, The Go-Go’s and Siouxsie Sioux in the mix, and a catchy simplicity in choruses that remind me both of recent albums by Best Coast and last year’s Crocodiles effort, particularly in the aforementioned song ‘Rimbaud Eyes’ which I’ve already played to death. It sometimes borders on over clever with the song ‘Too True To Be Good’, but overall this is succinct spiritual pop that is both timeless and worthy of yours, particularly as nearly every sub 3 minute chunk of it is a potential nugget of gold. 8.3/10
Listen to ‘Rimbaud Eyes’