Dum Dum Girls
How does one ever get over major grief? And by grief, I mean the catastrophic kind – the kind that we hopefully will only have to experience a few times during our lives – like the death of a parent, child, or spouse, or from extreme personal illness. Whatever form it may take, every one of us will go through some kind of heartbreak that feels insurmountable. Sadly, there are those of us who cannot and choose not to continue on with their inner turmoil. For the rest of us, what remains? Do we ever find a genuine path back? I’m sure some of us actually do, but no matter how many times we are reminded of the Kübler-Ross Model (Five Stages of Grief), I wonder if the rest of us ever actually move past the grief, but instead simply stop dwelling on it. It’s as if we simply return to the denial stage and try to act as if nothing is wrong anymore in order to not be a burden on those who we find ourselves with, be it family, friends, and even co-workers or neighbors. We make an attempt to hit reset and go back to how we felt before the pain hit our lives, but we all know that we are forever changed in a negative way. Sure, someone can argue that positives can be drawn from such difficult times and it is all about perspective. It’s like when a person tells a story of survival like: “I was lucky to survive the 200 foot fall when the cliff collapsed underneath my feet.” It always seems like they were first really unlucky to be present when that ledge crumbled. I’m probably saying a lot about myself with these questions and statements, but I find that all of the most painful events in my life have only made me numb to both the highs and lows that our life can provide.
Numbness is a recurring allusion on Dum Dum Girls’ newest album (their third). On “Too True to be Good,” Dee Dee Penny sings: “the clouds were opening above my head / stood on the edge / feeling so dead.” There is exhaustion here. She has been on the edge from mourning the loss of her mom for so long (as chronicled brilliantly and heartrendingly and their 2011 Only in Dreams – see my breakdown here) that she feels like she’s between wanting to die and already dead. With 2012’s End of Daze EP closer “Season in Hell” she showed us the first glimpses of recovery (or acceptance) as she powerfully sang about the redemptive power of the dawn, but with this new release it feels like she’s simply worn out from dwelling on her pain, which still lingers. This album, though far more advanced than the bedroom recordings of her 2010 debut I Will Be, has more in common with that release than Only in Dreams. The full band is gone (sadly) and we’re back with the drum machine and dirty sounding guitars. The production is brighter and the songs are more varied and fully realized than that promising debut, but songs like “Evil Blooms” and “Little Minx,” with its pile driving drum beat and fuzzy guitars, sound like they could’ve come from that time.
As I’ve mentioned numerous times on this page a couple of years ago, Only in Dreams found a way to force me to confront the loss of my mom – something I’m not sure I had ever truly done. I think I was still inside some sort of extended denial stage. Dee Dee’s powerful, frank and vivid words really hit me hard, all the while making fantastically catchy and enjoyable tunes that beg for repeated listens. The question is really how could she follow up such a forceful and committed album? How would I react? Her songs have been some of my favorite over the last few years, but how could she ever achieve that transformative magic again? I’m not sure it’s possible. However, once the fourth song, “Are You Okay?” comes around, everything becomes just right; this strumming narcotic of a song is instantly addictive and begs to be sung along with. Not only that, but it confronts exactly these questions of lingering mourning: “But what if it doesn’t go away? What if this feeling always plagues?” - and finds answers in understanding support: “and you say ‘are you okay?’ What do you feel? I feel it too.” This is where the album really finds its stride. The aforementioned “Too True to be Good” shuffles along beautifully with terrific background vocals elevating the song to another level. Then the loneliness of separation sets in on the relentless buzz of “In the Wake of You,” where Dee Dee sounds a helluva lot like the smoky voiced Christina Amphlett (R.I.P.) from Australia’s Divinyls. It’s on the first single, “Lost Boys and Girls Club,” where Dee Dee channels a later era Siouxsie Sioux and sings of being adrift and looking for company – like a theme song for all of the downtown Goths smoking cloves below the neon lights of the degenerate clubs. In the reverb soaked closing ballad, “Trouble is My Name,” Dee Dee sems resigned to her fate: “There’s nothing you can do to make all your bad turn good.” She is still looking for a way out of her trouble, but seems to be accepting that trouble will haunt her anyway.
So, no, this is not as stunning and heart wrenchingly powerful as Only in Dreams, but Dee Dee has managed to provide us with an entertaining set of new music. For me, it doesn’t hurt that her influences are so seemingly in line with mine. She has a knack for tapping into sounds that I am predestined to like. My only complaint is the lack of the full band on the recording. This may be a choice made to save money, or that they were all too busy with their own projects (check out drummer Sandy's amazing Sisu - my #10 pick of 2013 seen here) but I look forward to hearing these new songs live and in person on their upcoming tour.
Dum Dum Girls "Lost Boys and Girls Club