Dum Dum Girls came on the garage rock scene with grit and had balls, so to speak. We were less fascinated by their beauty, perfect lipstick, and bordello style because they weren’t paraded around back then like they are now: as THE girl group to throw your hard earned money at. Just a few years ago, we were listening to them in small doses and whispers of this real and dirty bunch were emerging from Los Angeles apartments while the band played mid-week shows and festivals.
For this writer, the evolution of the Dum Dum girls is both great and damaged by exposure. Remember before the internet inundation and you didn’t know every waking move of every celebrity on the planet? Remember the time when your imagination could wander and you could create your own conclusion about what this song meant or how a family member’s death may have influenced the record or when you couldn’t sit in front of YouTube eating chips watching other people live? We liked it before Dum Dum Girls became a deified version of themselves, their gorgeous pale faces on every indie rag and website, before they got a real studio and real producers to tidy up the Girls’ loose edges.
Even with the litany of hype, Only In Dreams has such a sweet, sentimental teenager sound, it’s easy to dismiss the Dum Dum Girls as a kitschy cute girl group in fancy tights. But when you read the history of this la la la sound record, the suspicion that this foursome is all lollipops is called into question. The ghost of frontwoman Dee Dee’s mother haunts the lyrics (on the whispery “Hold Your Hand”) as does the fear of love being torn apart by distance (on the longing “Bedroom Eyes”). In theory, this record should move you. Yet none of this pain and frustration is obvious from the surface. Dum Dum Girls put on a pearly white smile and play sexy siren rock.
The short and sweet record gets to the point and knows itself right away, but it’s not the most complicated sound you’ll hear in a minute. In that respect, it’s a good pick for a work-day. It won’t distract you with any loud displays of virtuosity or break away solos.
With echo-y space and a heavy influence of both 60s and 90s girl groups, Only In Dreams brings us back to days of writing our sweethearts’ names in notebooks and the high school hallways all looked like they did in Sixteen Candles. To its credit, Only In Dreams takes hints from greats like Mazzy Star (“Coming Down”) and The Pretenders (“Wasted Away”) but it paints over them with soft strokes to mask the scars.
This record is likely to make it into your regular rotation, as it has mine, but not because it blows doors down. Rather, listening to Only In Dreams is like dating someone that you’re comfortable with but to whom you can’t quite say, “I love you.”