Dum Dum Girls’ first release, a cassette called Blissed Out, was as lo-fi as you can possibly get. Or pretty close to it. To my ears, it sounded less like lo-fi and more like shit. (It was a bedroom recording, in their defense.) But my opinion of the group has gotten progressively better with the release of each of their albums since. Their last album, Only in Dreams, had one song that’s got to be one of the top 20 songs written during the past decade in the form of “Coming Down,” a gorgeous ballad about, well, coming down. It was and remains the perfect song to listen to after a night out partying.
The Girls worked with two producers on their new album, Too True. One was Richard Gottehrer, who’d previously produced such artists as Blondie and The Go-Gos, who also happens to be the writer of the famous songs “My Boyfriend’s Back” and “I Want Candy.” Gottehrer previously worked with the Girls on their first official album, I Will Be, as well as on their last three releases. The other producer on Too True was Sune Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes, who previously worked with the group on 2011’s He Gets Me High EP and everything since. Interestingly, Gottehrer actually produced The Raveonettes back in the day, before Wagner knew how to produce. At the time, The Raveonettes sound very much had an oldies vibe and they were clearly influenced by songs Gottehrer had written, especially “My Boyfriend’s Back.” More recently, however, Wagner has given The Raveonettes a lo-fi make over, making them sound more like early Dum Dum Girls. What does all of this mean? Well, I suppose it means that Dum Dum Girls tend to sound quite a bit like The Raveonettes these days. But they sound more like vintage music by The Raveonettes than the music The Raveonettes are making these days, this even though the Dum Dum Girls started off sounding the way The Raveonettes sound today. So, whatever Wagner is doing with The Raveonettes at any given time, he seems to do the opposite with Dum Dum Girls. Personally, I wish The Raveonettes still sounded the way they did when Gottehrer was producing them. They’re still great but I wish their songs still had that glorious sheen they once had before they went all lo-fi. The good news is that Dum Dum Girls’ Too True at least as that classic, early sound of The Raveonettes, a sound I quite love. (Confused yet?)
I’m not sure if Gottehrer and Wagner collaborated on each track on Too True or if one of them produced some of the songs and the other produced the rest. Since they’ve worked with both producers on their last four releases and Gottehrer previously produced The Raveonettes, my guess is that both producers worked on all of the songs here, but that’s just a guess. But, hey, at least I know that the Girls previously worked with both producers. I’ve read quite a few reviews where the people writing them sounded like they had no idea the Girls had ever worked with either producer before.
Too True opens with a gorgeous tune called “Cult of Love,” which is very much in the vein of Blondie or The Go-Gos. There’s nothing even remotely lo-fi about this one. On the contrary, the production is rather immaculate, each of the instruments sounding fantastic. Sure, there’s a bit of distortion involved, particularly on the guitars, but the song has a big sound, largely due to the wonderful synth, which appears during many of the songs on the album. Besides, I never said I had a problem with distortion. I just prefer things to sound more hi-fi than lo-fi and everything about Too True is hi-fi. There’s just one slight problem with “Cult of Love,” which is its short length: 2:16. Often, shorter songs are catchier than longer songs and I do believe that “Cult of Love” is the catchiest cut on the album, but it does feel a bit too short for its own good. Just when you’re thinking, wow, this song is fucking amazing, it abruptly ends. To which end, it almost comes across less like a fully fleshed-out song and more like an intro.
My second favorite track on Too True is a sweet ballad called “Are You Okay?” It’s such an endearing song and its melody is entirely dreamy. If someone played it for you and said it was a Blondie out-take from 1981, you’d probably believe them. Dee Dee Penny sounds very much like Debbie Harry here, something I say as a big compliment. Otherwise, one could also say that Penny evokes The Pretenders’ Chrissie Hynde here. Suffice to say the song has a distinct ’80’s vibe, which could also be said about many of the other tracks on the album. In fact, the following song, “Too True To Be Good,” which is also a ballad, evokes Precious Time-era Pat Benatar and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that it warms my heart. And not just because it makes me wax nostalgic. Even if you weren’t around in the ’80’s and listen to it, you’re sure to think it’s a lovely song and you’ll probably find yourself singing along the next time you listen to it.
There really isn’t a bad song on Too True, but other highlights include the swirling, sexed-up mid-tempo number “Lost Boys and Girls Club,” the razor sharp yet poetic “Rimbaud Eyes” and surf-rock-meets-punk flavored “Evil Blooms.”
This is one of those all too rare, instantly classic albums that you buy, fall madly in love with, and introduce it to all of your cool friends, who can’t thank you enough. Unless they’re assholes who think Britney Spears is the epitome of music today.