Dee Dee Dum Dum (AKA Kirsten Gundred) and her band-mates were already firm favourites of ours when this, their second long-player, landed on the reviews desk at Bowlegs’ headquarters – so the Californian quartet were going to have to work pretty hard not to please our highly expectant ears. Thankfully, any worries that the band’s ever-rising star might run up against some turbulence were immediately blasted to kingdom come upon first listen, for ‘Only In Dreams’ is another excellent package of what the Dum Dums do best: sixties infused, fast and frenetic, wall-of-sound, surf-pop – fronted by the beautiful vocals of Dee Dee.
It’s an album full of broken dreams, lost love, hope, dejection, reclaimed love, and more than a dash of cinematic menace. For the first six songs – from the unsettled, purposefully agitated opener, ‘Always Looking’, through to ‘Caught In One’ – the pace rarely drops; but there are many moments where a subtle shift – an unexpected key change – or a slightly surprising vocal line, lift the arrangements just that little bit, like a twinkle in Dee Dee’s eye. Such supreme confidence in the formula – but most importantly, when to break from it ever so slightly – is possibly the Dum Dum’s greatest asset. It’s something the Ramones knew perfectly, and their warmth and energy is perhaps a very worthy invocation here, even if the styles do differ.
Track seven, ‘Coming Down’, is a sweeping, elegiac epic – slower of rhythm and considerably longer, and more ambitious, than the previous numbers, paving the way for the Dum Dum’s most self-conscious attempts at breaking form in their career yet – as they do so during the rest of the album. ‘Coming Down’ is a gloriously infectious joy to the senses, but the heavy shades of Mazzy Star’s ‘Fade Into You’ are impossible to ignore, however inadvertent they may be.
But hey, as we say, where the Dum Dum Girls were once students, they’ve outgrown their masters, to become the current definitive benchmark for this brand of velvet rock, so who cares if a track or two veers towards an old classic? This is as good as this sort of thing gets. There’s no-one better at it right now; at least until the next record from the Dum Dums arrives.