Too True is the third LP from the Dum Dum Girls. It’s 30 minutes long, it has ten songs, and it is really good. I’m such a huge fan of the Dum Dum Girls that I had to get these factual banalities out of the way at the top of the review before I get totally lost in overexcited rambling.
It’s actually pretty impressive that Dum Dum Girls albums are so consistently great, considering the broad range of styles the band has explored over their catalog. Clearly, frontwoman Dee Dee Penny (of all the wonderful stage names) is a scholar of modern rock and pop music, and skillfully blends influences into the Dum Dum Girls sound. Their debut I Will Be is a mix of 60s girl-group harmonies with Jesus And Mary Chain fuzz, while follow-up album Only In Dreams recalls Blondie and the Pretenders. DIscusing the new album on the Sub Pop website, Dee Dee cites new wave and 90s alt pop influences for Too True, which are detectable in “Rimbaud Eyes” (the Cure) and “Under These Hands” (Stone Roses). Her vocals have an inky, detached affect that always come off as effortlessly cool.
The Dum Dum Girls’ last – and best – record, 2012’s End of Daze EP, was a thematic departure from previous work. The protagonist on End of Daze was a girl, lost, defeated, trying to escape her past mistakes. “I want to live a pure life/I’d say that it’s about time,” she begins the impeccable single “Lord Knows.” The mood is dark, frustrated. It’s an interesting contrast to the lyricism of earlier Dum Dum Girls records that explore love and relationships, both positively and negatively. Older songs like “Bedroom Eyes” and “He Gets me High” are straightforward love songs, and I Will Be standouts “It Only Takes One Night” and “Lines Her Eyes” are almost hilariously direct in their portrayal of a jealous girlfriend.
Too True picks up character-wise, I think, from End of Daze. The girl we hear on Too True is still wrestling with internal demons, but she’s back within the context of society and relationships. “Sometimes my heart is pure/sometimes I know it’s not,” she says on “Are You Okay,” in an intriguing reference to “Lord Knows.” “Trouble is my name,” she warns on the song of the same title. But she’s also able to revisit more straightforward romance, for example on “In the Wake of You.”
Dee Dee’s use of repetitive imagery is one of my favorite things about the Dum Dum Girls, and is something I noticed again on Too True. She often uses beds and empty hands to evoke love and longing, and the contrast between day and night to represent good and evil (not necessarily novel, but effective anyway). Death, time, and the devil are all frequently personified – “Death is on the telephone” is one of my favorite lines. The origins of these repeated themes made a lot more sense to me once I learned Dee Dee was raised Catholic, as a side note. Along with their visual style, which is an envy-inducing assortment of black, leather, sheer, sunglasses, and blunt bangs (do I even need to say? Sign me up), the lyrical imagery in the Dum Dum Girls’ music adds to the overall dark and mysteriously cool vibe of the band. Dee Dee describes her experience writing Too True as “chasing pop into the dark,” which perfectly sums up the quality in the Dum Dum Girls that has made me into the superfan I am today.
Too True is overall really fun. The songs are quick, but catchy and memorable. “Under These Hands” is a standout, as is “Too True To Be Good,” whose sparkly chorus balances the awesome moodiness of others, like closing track “Trouble Is My Name.” There is a song called “Little Minx,” which is also a highlight and will be a contender for favorite song title of 2014.
The Dum Dum Girls are one of the strongest contemporary indie bands, and I can definitely sense their popularity rising. Too True is a great addition to an already excellent catalog, and as my most anticipated release for 2014, it did not disappoint.
9/10 little minxes.