To say that Dum Dum Girls and Vivian Girls are related wouldn’t be entirely off-base. Aside from the obvious commonality of having “Girls” in both their names and having all female members, they also have one shared member as well. That would be Frankie Rose, who played drums for Vivian Girls on their first record before leaving the band to join Crystal Stilts. She then left Crystal Stilts to form her own band Frankie Rose and the Outs, while about the same time joining up with Dum Dum Girls as well. Another common trait shared by Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls is their overall sound, which basically amounts to noisy lo-fi girl group pop. It takes the catchy, sweet and harmonized girl pop songs of the 50s and 60s and updates them with heavy guitars, distortion and cheap recording aesthetics.
Now it should be noted that lo-fi has pretty much become passe by this point in time, spearheded by bands like Vivian Girls and Wavves in late 2008 and much of 2009, and the hype has moved itself over to the electronica genre to form the now-popular “glo-fi” genre of music. What does this mean for Dum Dum Girls, who released their debut album “I Will Be” via Sub Pop last week? For most, I suspect the resounding cry will be “too little, too late” and people will ignore the record. If you like good music, I’d advise against rushing to judgment like that. The simple fact is that this album is a pop delight, lo-fi or not lo-fi, and the songs will stick in your head for longer than you might otherwise think.
One of the things that really got people attracted to Dum Dum Girls in the first place was the self-titled EP that was released last year. At that time, the band was made up of just Kristin Gundred (aka Dee Dee), recording these scuzzy pop songs in her bedroom with non-professional equipment. After that EP and the subsequent buzz got her signed to Sub Pop, Dee Dee recruited three new members, including the aforementioned Frankie Rose, and brought on famed producer Richard Gottehrer (he’s responsible for producing a number of great Go-Go’s and Blondie albums). The end product is a cleaner, fuller effort than the EP, moving farther (but not entirely) away from lo-fi and into genuine rock band territory. So yes, you can still label this a lo-fi album, but with clearer, more up-front vocals and crisper guitars and drums, it doesn’t always feel like one. Add in some ridiculously catchy melodies and you’ve got a record that’s both smart and fun. A couple ballads also give this record some additional range and heart, and the closing cover of Sonny and Cher’s “Baby Don’t Go” might be the best of the slower bunch. All in all, these 11 tracks breeze by in just under 30 minutes, and given that’s just about when you tire of it, you could say it’s perfectly paced.
Whether you consider yourself a fan of lo-fi chick rock or not, I like to think that Dum Dum Girls have at least a little something you can enjoy. If so many of these songs weren’t bogged down in guitar noise, there are some real potential radio hits amid the bunch. But I suppose the strength of the songs and songwriting is what attracted labels to Dum Dum Girls in the first place. “I Will Be” is in stores now, and if you like what you hear in the sample tracks below, there’s more where that came from on the full album. Pick it up if you know what’s good for you.
Bonus, Non-Album Track: Dum Dum Girls- D.A.L.