I love the Dum Dum Girls. I don't go out to too many shows any more, but I'm going to see them a week from Saturday. I was blown away by their debut album, I Will Be. I'm a sucker for lo-fi pop, especially made by women, and this was a wonderful example of it. If anything, I loved the EP He Gets Me High even more. There was clearly a shift in direction, a little higher-fi, a little more pop, but the result was strong. The songs stick in my head, and I think their cover of the Smiths' "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out" is brilliant, better than the original.
So I really want to like Only in Dreams, the album I downloaded just yesterday. And I do like it. The shift perceived on He Gets Me High is more pronounced here. Dee Dee Penny's (Kristen Gundrud) voice sounds great, and it's mixed right up front. The messy guitars are pushed into the background. The playing is tight, the sound is big and shiny. One of the album's producers was Sune Rose Wagner of the Raveonettes, another of my favourite bands, and I can hear his influence.
This is only my first listen. I'm definitely enjoying it. But am I really impressed by the songwriting? With the first single, "Your Bedroom Eyes," maybe. But on this listen, the rest is enjoyable but not more. Here's the thing. You can get away with less than first-rate songwriting if you have a distinctive sound. That's what I got from I Will Be—good songs and a catchy sound. The album ran on the great energy the band produced. But when you back off the noisy guitars and dive headlong into pop music, you'd better write some really, really good stuff. That's what I hear when I listen to a Raveonettes album—lots of songs that stay with me. Here I'm hearing good songs. Heartfelt songs to be sure—Penny lost her mother to cancer, and that subject shows up in more than one song. But great songs? Distinctive songs? I'm not so sure.
I will listen some more. I bet I will be dancing up a storm at their show. And sometimes seeing a band live can make a difference in how you hear their recordings. So we shall see. I needed to hear this album, but maybe I should have saved a little of this month's eMusic allowance for the new album from Veronica Falls. That is really intriguing!