Dum Dum Girls - Only in Dreams

by Rich Morris Rating:8 Release Date:2011-09-26

Last year, during an interview with Soundblab, Dum Dum Girls' leader Dee Dee demurred charmingly when I asked if the band might ever drop the fuzz of their debut I Will Be for a shinier, more commercial sound. Dum Dum Girls would always be, she stressed, a rock n roll band. Well, a rock n roll band they remain but album number two has a crisp, clear sound which does wonders for its shimmering, seductive music.

 

The band served notice with 'He Gets Me High', which appeared at the start of the year, that they were now making music which was the measure of their girl pop/garage rock inspirations. Strangely, that glorious nugget doesn't appear on Only in Dreams, which might explain why the band tossed it out with less care than usual when I saw them live a few months back. I always love a band who can nonchalantly knock out a genius stand-alone single but I'm not sure whether DDG are quite at that level yet. Only in Dreams repeats I Will Be's clutch of dizzyingly great guitar-pop songs interspersed with agreeably fizzy ditties. Where it wins out over their debut, however, is its strength and clarity. This is a record which packs a real pop punch.

 

The girls hit the ground at full pelt with opener 'Always Looking', a rock n roll rumble which mixes bellyaching surf guitar with a T Rex chant-along chorus. It's utterly loveable but it's just a warm-up for the album's first truly great track, 'Bedroom Eyes', a thing of swooning, sensual beauty with a chorus so huge and unfussy you wonder why no one else seems able to pull this trick off right now.

 

It's abundantly clear that Dee Dee is no longer just looking to her favourite records for inspiration. Instead she's mainlining their deathless pop classicism and crying through the high. The album's other imperial moment, 'Coming Down', a full-on power ballad, is seriously good - a languid haze of horny guitar and sorrowful vocals underpinned with massive, booming drums. If this gets released as a single and the video doesn't show guitarist Jules enjoying a windswept guitar solo outside a church in a desert then there is no justice.

 

Away from such moments of magnificence, Only in Dreams is just a thoroughly decent but not-too-demanding indie-pop record. Songs like 'Just a Creep' and 'Heartbeat' combine The Ramones, Buddy Holly and The Shirelles in a way which is always uncommonly skilful but somehow also a little disposable. But hey, isn't that how great pop is supposed to be?

 

In time-honoured classic pop tradition, from The Shangri-Las' 'Past, Present, Future' to Madonna's 'Live to Tell', there's depth behind the sheen once you're clued in: between the release of I Will Be and the recording of this album, Dee Dee's mother passed away. This subtext is discernible on both 'In My Head' and the closing 'Hold Your Hand', which kind of sounds like Cyndi Lauper's 'Time After Time' and is thus, obviously, wonderful. The lyrics hover around the subject matter rather than diving in, and couplets such as "Shut out the light/ Death is so bright" demonstrate Dee Dee's skill as a wordsmith.

 

So, Only in Dreams isn't quite the classic DDG aspire to, but there's plenty to suggest that's still to come. In the meantime, this is a record which will reward repeat listens, something which will no doubt happen since it's pretty damn irresistible. It has ample potential to become the go-to record for getting you up in the morning, doing the housework, dancing goofily with your mates before/after a night out etc. And while not every track packs the wallop of 'Bedroom Eyes' or 'I'm Coming Down', DDG do not put a heel wrong anywhere on the album. That's impressive.

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