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Dum Dum Girls - Too True (Sub Pop)

1 February 2014

When I first heard “Lost Boys and Girls Club,” a song from this album that was released well ahead of the album’s release date, I wasn’t that taken with it despite its over-the-top video. Perhaps the fact that it sounded slightly slicker on first listen was what was throwing me off. And on that note, we should get that out of the way. Dum Dum Girls mastermind Dee Dee has come a long way from her early days on Hozac and her debut full-length I Will Be. As much as I like those records, I think they’ve gotten better with just about every release. This album is no exception.

As I suspected, though, “Lost Boys and Girls Club” (and “Too True to Be Good,” the song which gives the album its title and part of which was also released as part of an album trailer weeks before the album started streaming on NPR) work much better on the album than as a whole. That’s not to say they are weak, though. Far from it. It’s just that when compared to the monster hook of “Rimbaud Eyes,” (which evokes Patti Smith, a devout fan of the name-checked French poet Arthur Rimbaud) or the gentle, addictive and also mega-catchy “Are You Okay?” (both side 1 standouts) they perhaps weren’t the best songs to introduce the record.

Despite the individual standout tracks, this album is best heard as exactly that (an album) and from the first listen on to dozens more, I am floored each and every time I play this record. I recommend the vinyl version because the packaging is gorgeous, the sound is quite good (which is not always the case for a modern release on vinyl) and it comes with a bonus 7”, too. Whatever format you like will suffice, though, as the more I play it, the more I also think that this is Dum Dum Girls’ best work to date.

It’s not as personal as 2011’s amazing Only in Dreams or 2012’s End of Daze EP and lyrically, it seems cryptic compared to those previous releases. Still, it’s deeply, deeply affecting. When Dee Dee (who, along with long-time producer and collaborator Sune Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes, sings and play every note on this album) sings “Are You Okay?” one can’t help wonder what exactly is wrong that the subject of the song has to say that to her and of course it’s in the way her beautiful voice coos those words that makes it so effective. While she’s not singing explicitly about her mother’s death (like on much of Only in Dreams) or of mourning and agoraphobia (like on End of Daze), this listener is still greatly moved.

Elsewhere, “In the Wake of You,” is driven by a new wave-ish guitar riff that sounds like it could’ve come off of Devo‘s Freedom of Choice and the aforementioned “Lost Boys and Girls Club” is the only song here that I thought sounded like what I thought the album would sound like as a whole. What I mean is that on End of Daze, it seemed that they were going in a slightly less poppy, heavier shoegaze/dream-pop direction, especially as evidenced on “Lord Knows.” This is another thing that threw me off about the record at first and while on initial listens, I thought it a bit of a 180 degree turn, now I think it’s a logical progression.

Furthermore, I think that Dee Dee saves her best for last here. “Trouble is My Name,” though it cuts off somewhat prematurely (at least the first dozen times; after that, it feels seamless), might be the best thing she has ever done. It’s a stunning work with all of the relatively recent Dum Dum Girls hallmarks: a wonderful sense of melody, great vocals, a monster chorus and a haunting outro of “I’m trouble” that once again (though the lyrics are not explicit) make the listener wonder exactly what is going on here.