These are Sad and Dark Dreams
Dee Dee is Kristin Gundred, the lead singer and songwriter driving the Dum Dum Girls’ bus. She’s been known to write in her bedroom and then take the tracks to the studio, enlisting help to fleshed out her rock sound. Yet her songs do tend to reflect a girl-writing-songs-in-her-bedroom feeling, especially since they’re often full of loss, romance, and longing. Dee Dee’s mom died this year, cutting a Dum Dum Girls tour short, and the songs that followed on Only in Dreams reflect her grief through the styles of surf rock and soulful girl groups. They’re mostly a success.
This sophomore LP works because of Dee Dee’s capable vocals. She sounds a little like Alaina Moore from Tennis mixed with Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval. There’s a resonance and power in her vocals on Only in Dreams that does feel affected by her mother’s death and a growing maturity. Dum Dum Girls really pour on the percussion as well, which is a blessing and a curse. The boom-boom boom tempo pretty much never varies, except for on a few songs like “Only in Dreams,” “Coming Down,” and “Hold Your Hand.”
“Coming Down” is one of the slowest, darkest, saddest tracks on the album, yet strangely enough it was the first single—it’s clear that Dee Dee’s not exactly seeking pop radio approval. “Bedroom Eyes” is slated to be next, a seemingly more appropriate move: it has a female Ramones-meets-Blondie vibe. “I need your bedroom eyes,” she sings over and over, compounding the simplistic, 1960s feel of the whole record. There’s even a song called “Teardrops on my Pillow,” which makes you think of the 1958 song by Little Anthony and the Imperials even though they are in no way related.
Dee Dee’s voice is stronger than ever, strong enough to carry the whole record, but despite some great moments Only in Dreams veers into sameness here and there; when there’s only three or four songs that don’t have the same drum beat and lyrical structure, there’s not much to grow into as a listener. That lyricism, while poignant and raw at moments, is also very spare—a half-dozen lines can make up a full song. It’s the ’60s way, it seems, and for better or worse she’s certainly nailed it here.