Lo-fi indie rockers with coolly referential names are hardly a new development in 2010. No Age first nodded to their SST heroes back in 2007, and their San Diegan comrades in Crocodiles made something new and fun out of Echo & The Bunnymen’s early template shortly thereafter. Their fellow Southern Californians in Dum Dum Girls, however, tip their hats to two of their influences, The Vaselines and Iggy Pop, which is well evident on their Sub Pop debut, I Will Be. Neither as twee as the former, nor as raw or fiery as Iggy Pop or The Stooges, Dum Dum Girls find a happy compromise between the two, churning out a concise but scorching garage rock album that marries its fuzzed out power with charming, lo-fi restraint.
I Will Be kicks off with the brief, but melodically stunning “It Only Takes One Night,” a dark and distorted treat that mines that narrow triangle of fuzz that connects punk rock, shoegazer and rockabilly, coming across as the sultry, snotty little sisters of the Raveonettes. “Bhang Bhang I’m a Burnout,” meanwhile, has a dreamier sound, with lead Girl Dee Dee’s voice enrobed in delicate layers of reverb. Lead single “Jail La La” is the most endearing song ever to use a couplet like “covered in shit/ and high as a kite,” and a stellar track overall, showing off the Los Angeles quartet’s balance of snot and sweetness, its most transcendent moment arriving with the harmonized chorus of “Someone tell my baby.”
“Rest of our Lives,” the second longest song on the album (3:01) recalls another contemporary band of Girls, Vivian that is, with its hazily hypnotic distortion balladry. “Yours Alone,” with a little help from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner, kicks up some momentum again, pulsing forward with gusto and plenty more fuzz, and “Blank Girl” features a more ’50s-style early rock ‘n’ roll sound, albeit with guest vocals from Crocodiles’ Brandon Welchez. The surf-guitar riffs of “Lines Her Eyes” make for an infectious, badass confection, while closer “Baby Don’t Go,” practically epic at just shy of four minutes, ends the album with some gorgeously atmospheric sounds and the prettiest performance on this all-too-brief 28 minute album.
Though association through locale and a shared affinity for effects pedals may find Dum Dum Girls frequently mentioned in the same sentence as fellow modern post-punks like Crocodiles, there’s something far more classic, even timeless about L.A. foursome. Ending just a few minutes shy of a half-hour, I Will Be definitely leaves the listener wanting more-a lot more-but in this short burst, what they create is refreshing, rocking, even beautiful.
Video: “Jail La La”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.