When the first scuzzy demos appeared on myspace back in 2008 it was difficult to imagine that three years later Dum Dum Girls would have morphed into such a strong force, such a complete finished article. Last year's debut, 'I Will Be', was comprised of sunny, sugar-coated, noise-pop nuggets. It was a lot of fun, but maybe slightly throwaway – you couldn't envisage many people discussing its merits twenty years down the line. For the follow up Dum Dum Girls actual sound hasn't changed drastically, you can trace the lineage by a quick glance at their collaborators and influences thus far: 60s pop writer/producer Richard Gottehrer, the man behind The Angles and The Strangeloves who went on to man the desk for Blondie and The Raveonettes amongst many others; Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner; Crocodiles' Brandon Welchez who also provided guitar; The Raveonettes Sune Rose Wagner who shares production duties here; the band's name is inspired by a Vaselines album and an Iggy Pop song. Those names are shining examples in the tradition of unpolished gems, punk attitude with pop sensibilities. It's also a trick that's been attempted countless times. How exactly do Dum Dum Girls craft any kind of legacy for themselves and add their name to that illustrious list?
'Only In Dreams' succeeds in taking Dum Dum Girls to another level without the need for compromise. Here they sound more mature and more passionate, as if they've graduated from high school and been slapped clean in the face by the big, bad life that awaited. Instrumentally much of the album remains a sugar-rush, 'Bedroom Eyes', 'Wasted Away', 'Always Looking' and 'Just A Creep' employ surf guitars and JAMC effects pedals to stunning effect. Combined with bubblegum melodies and occasional handclaps these are comparable to some of the finest singles by Blondie or The Raveonettes. Dee Dee's voice also seems to have matured, sounding richer and more emotive; 'Heartbeat' and 'In My Head' channel Chrissy Hynde's warm, powerful tones.
At the heart of these songs the spectre of loss looms large. The tragic death of Dee Dee's mother is unquestionably a reason why emotions are running so high, never more so than on 'Caught In One'. “This year's been a drag, who knew it'd be so bad...you can tell me time will heal but you don't know the way I feel... all the pain and all the sighs that were up in my mother's eyes”. Clocking in at over six and a half minutes 'Coming Down' is something of an epic by Dum Dum Girls' standards ('I Will Be' only contains two tracks over three minutes) and is heart-wrenchingly touching, recalling Mazzy Star in both sound and beauty. Closer 'Hold Your Hand' sees Dee Dee pleading“can you shut your eyes/shut out the light/death is so bright... you'd do anything to bring her back”. You feel uncomfortable intruding on this level of personal grief.
'Only In Dreams' is far more substantial than the quartet's debut, the life experiences conveying a new depth lyrically and ensuring that the album works on more than one level; there are classic, galloping pop songs which you'll be hearing at many an indie-disco, and also an intricacy and an intensity for those that want music with more scope. Dum Dum Girls have come a long way in the past three years and have now produced timeless record, one hopes that not only will we still be talking about them in twenty years but that they'll still be active and on this form. An album of the year contender.