Dum Dum Girls released their first album, I Will Be, in 2010. It was a critical hit. The ladies in the band wore matching black striped tights. Their producer, Richard Gottehrer, co-wrote the ‘60s hit “My Boyfriend’s Back,” and that kind of cutesy call-and-response garage pop sound was all over their first single, “Jail La La.” Bandleader Dee Dee Penny worked her Shangri-Las coo to full effect. There wasn’t necessarily a reason to expect anything more than cool, rebellious-minded retro pop from Dum Dum Girls.
Now, another LP and a handful of EPs later, they’ve done something incredible: evade the pitfalls of retro stylings, surprise everyone who assumed the kitsch of their matching outfits spelled out only short-term success, and made music that has evolved from ‘60s girl group to something much less classifiable. With End of Daze, the production values have increased in a way that makes the garage fuzziness sound beefier and more fully realized. And Dee Dee’s voice has mellowed into something between Kim Deal, Shirley Manson and Beth Gibbons: she can purr, scoff, coo and belt with amazing fluidity.
End of Daze sounds like a short segment of Dum Dum Girls’ future greatest hits collection. It kicks off with “Mine Tonight,” a chugging, grungy track with pirate ballad lyrics: “I dreamed a death I cannot cheat.” “I Got Nothing” picks up the tempo and knocks you out with a simple, repetitive, catchy-as-fuck chorus. “Lord Knows” is dreamy and drugged out; “Season In Hell” has an end-of-movie-soundtrack kick. The only track that doesn’t hold up the standard is the Strawberry Switchblade cover “Trees and Flowers,” an oozy, percussionless falsetto number for Dee-Dee that doesn’t have the tunefulness and spunk of the rest of the EP.
The ‘60s garage pop is still there—in the brevity of the songs, in that propulsive bass, in Gottehrer’s ace production—but now it’s tempered with an expansiveness that makes it sound modern and radio-ready. Mainstream radio probably won’t touch End of Daze, and it’s their loss: here is a band whose sound has matured without mouldering into Adult Alternative territory, and here is a lead singer who can write a killer hook, then deliver it with control and style.