opinion by MATTHEW M. F. MILLER
The Universe is a cruel mistress. Her incessant need to achieve balance means that in the same breath that exhales the Dum Dum Girls stellar new album, Too True, their contemporaries, Vivian Girls, announce their dissolution. Both female trios cut their teeth on lo-fi pop that fused 60s girl group melodic flair with 80s garage rock. Their sounds were the hot indie trend circa 2008, laying the groundwork for Sleigh Bells and Best Coast to usurp them as the next big things, both of which recently were replaced by HAIM and CHVRCHES.
It’s sad if not unsurprising that Vivian Girls are no more. Hell, it’s a minor miracle that Dum Dum Girls have made it all the way to album number three. Let’s face it – the evolutionary cycle of music is no longer a cycle but a constant state for musicians looking to remain relevant because we all demand new music all of the time (for free, of course), and we expect it to keep up with trends but never sound derivative. The landscape changes faster today than ever in the history of ever, and unlike the now defunct Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls have been polishing (read: pop-ifying) and refining their act over the last several years, allowing them easy entry into the hot indie trend circa now: the 80s and 90s pop/R&B mono genre, making them ready to pounce while the iron once again is hot.
2012’s fine End of Daze EP revealed a band graduating from the lo-fi to cleaner-sounding pop excellence, and where that EP left off, Too True picks up. Lead track “Cult of Love” instantly immerses the listener into the darkly melodic garage pop-rock a la Echo and the Bunnymen, Go-Gos, Blondie and The Pretenders, and the album never lets off the catchy, 80s prom gas pedal. “Evil Blooms” is an urgent and vibrant mix of crunchy guitars, keyboards and drums. Lead singer Dee Dee (known to friends and family as Kirsten Gundred) employs her confident, dreamy voice throughout, and nowhere better than on standout tracks “Rimbaud Eyes” and “Lost Boys And Girls Club”.
Dee Dee’s voice is sexy, playful and commanding, and it works better in this context than ever before – at the front of the mix, clearer, and cleaner. Impossibly, every song is as catchy as the next. “Are You Okay?” is the perfect tear-jerker ballad to play over the climax of that John Hughes movie you’ve been directing in your head for years. “In The Wake Of You” is so infectious you might even discover yourself unintentionally doing the Molly Ringwald – at least those of you who know what the hell that even is.
Too True clocks in at 31 minutes, and half of the album’s 10 tracks don’t even make it to the three-minute mark. Dum Dum Girls wisely have hedged their bets on instant gratification, creating songs that go places fast, and those places are almost always tuneful and exuberant. It’s over in a hurry and it leaves you wanting more, which is about all you can hope for from a band’s third album. More importantly, Too True proves that Dum Dum Girls are as relevant today as they were six years ago because they know that evolution is the key to survival. This is their sound, the sound of today, and they wear it well. B+