Dum Dum Girls – Too Late
Sub Pop Records
“I loved their last one, but this album didn’t grab me.”
So read the request for me to review Too Late, the new album by the Dum Dum Girls. And it’s just about the same sentiment I’ve heard from a lot of their fans.
Too Late is a significant change in direction for a band that continues to mine the soul of 60s girl group sounds. That’s a rich era and style to model a sound around, but is also a dangerous place for bands to find themselves stuck artistically. It gets old, right?
That’s why I was thrilled when I heard the new album. Dee Dee’s voice seems right at home and more than a little Pat Benatar-flavored with music that falls closer to the poppier side of 80s new wave than anything the Ronettes could have dreamed. I’d thought of her singing as spunky and full of attitude, but aside from a cool end-of-phrase vibrato, fairly limited. On Too Late, there’s a richness I hadn’t noticed.
The polished production removes most of the grit from the band, and that may turn off some fans, but the smoothness doesn’t result in Dull Dull Girls, even if the lyrical topics aren’t breaking any new ground. There’s a confidence on this album that shines through. The retro spice of previous efforts are here – surf guitar sounds, straight-ahead drumming, much of the pop melody sensibility – but this is a band stretching into the future, trying new things and mostly finding success.
It all comes down to quality songs, right? The band smartly keeps things concise on Too Late: the album barely hits a half hour, with 10 songs averaging just under three minutes. Varied tempos keep things interesting and stand-outs are numerous, including “Rimbaud Eyes,” “Cult of Love” and my favorite “Too True To Be Good.” They don’t, in my opinion, reach the hooky heights of some of their previous songs, but the overall effect of the album is of an artist continuing to mature and refine her work.
This is a terrific album to throw in a mix, but it’s light on mix-tape bait. Most importantly, though, it points to a group that has it’s best days ahead, and that’s where we want our best days, right? – (8/10)
(Dum Dum Girls play Neumos in Seattle on April 5. Abe Beeson is the host of Evening Jazz weeknights from 7:30-midnight on 88.5fm KPLU. He’s infrequently also heard on fellow public radio station KEXP, where he hosted The Live Room live local show from 1993 to 2002.)