So I gave another listen to Only in Dreams by the Dum Dum Girls. I'm afraid it didn't improve on a second listen. I'm still going to enjoy seeing them, but I'll be most happy to hear the songs from their first album and recent EP—unless the new songs come off better live. On record, with few exceptions (the album starts stronger than it finishes), they seem laboured and uninspired, even lazy. There are refrains where there ought to be choruses. There is a reliance on form without the substance to go with it. The lyrics perhaps don't deserve to be right up front. I'm not giving up on the band, but I certainly hope Kristen Gundred gets more inspired next time around.
I mentioned Veronica Falls in that last review. Their first album, All Eyes on You,, really catches my attention, even more on second listen than on first. That's a good sign. What we have here are 12 strong songs. I found myself clicking the "love" icon on my Last.fm scrobbler more than a few times.
I am not familiar with any of the C-86 bands, so I don't know the antecedent to this sound. But I don't really care if this is a revival. As far as I'm concerned, it's just plain good stuff. Twee? Sure. It's ringing guitars and pretty girl-boy harmonies from Roxanne Clifford and James Hoare, with solid backing from bass player Marion Herbain (who is French and so has an adorable accent) and drummer Patrick Doyle. There's nothing edgy or dangerous about this music. But good songs and a cool sound win me over every time.
Since I don't have a point of reference for their actual influences, I will say that the band they remind me of most is the Chills, a band (really a series of bands) from New Zealand led by songwriter Martin Phillipps. They also seem to like a bit of surf guitar. And then there's the gothic influence on songs like "Love in a Graveyard" and "Beachy Head," although it all seems rather more tongue-in-cheek than truly gothic. There is one spot in "Love in a Graveyard" that I swear is a melodic quote from Joy Division. There's something about the way Clifford sings the descending fifth on the word "you" that makes me think of Ian Curtis (I think the song is "I Remember Nothing").
Here are songwriters who use conventional pop elements but make them distinctive. The sound does not rely strictly on the quality of the singer's voice. The songs don't sound generic; they sound fresh. If you don't like this kind of music, then I'm sure it won't work for you. But if you're a fan of indie pop, you owe it to yourself to check out Veronica Falls.
They're playing next Tuesday at Venue before the Drums (who are too poppy even for me). I am so tempted to go to the show and stay up too late when I should be studying for a test on Thursday, after having spent most of the weekend with my sweetie and her sister seeing movies at the film festival and having Thanksgiving dinner. But maybe I can fit all that in.