The prevalence of puppy love in I Will Be, first full-length from lo-fi surf punkers, Dum Dum Girls, sort of cancels out the more dangerous aspects of the group that inspired their name. The Dum Dum BOYS, (or, The Stooges), defiled the peace and love generation before its number was up, the overall humdrum tonality of 1969 withdrawing the patchouli-reeking daisy from the rifle’s muzzle, saying “fuck it,” and pulling the trigger on all that trendy purple haze.
Dum Dum Girls, the music venture of Kristin Gundred, a.k.a. Dee Dee, (or, The Ramone), is girl rock at its most garage, feminine and pubescent, capturing those sweetest of sweet and formative moments with a rapid-paced drum, catchy rock hook and a swooning, batting-lash gaze. I Will Be, even when it dabbles in anthemic nods to marijuana (Bhang Bhang, I’m a Burnout) or recounts a nervous stint in the slammer (Jail La La), can’t help but be endearing.
I know, by the way, that the above sounds patronizing as hell, but it’s not meant to be. I would put I Will Be in the same league as a Ramones record: surf-oriented rock music caught up in waves of teenage rebellion, alienation and desire. It’s fast, it’s a lot of fun to listen to and it’s in your head for days. It also recalls an era of pop music that sort of became unimportant once music became a vehicle for protest by the aforementioned peace and love generation.
As Joey Ramone revealed a penchant for Phil Spector groups and hold-your-hand romance, (I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend, anyone?), Dee Dee explores similar territory. She plays sensitive well: remembering the fragility of those years when heartbreak was like dying and newfound love was intoxicating. With the aid of ex-Vivian Girl Frankie Rose on drums, guitarist Jules and bassist Bambi, Dee Dee confesses and professes like the diary pages of a young girl whose interior has yet to be cracked by adulthood or disappointment.
The soft reverb battery and wall of cascading guitars that drive Rest Of Our Lives is almost suitable for slow dancing. Yours Alone details the lifetime attachment of two youths as they grow up together (“Met him in the schoolyard, five years old/Told him I would love him till I’m cold/We held hands, we took walks/My first kiss was at the docks…”). The boyfriend gives her “just the sweetest peck” for the song’s chorus. Blank Girl, with the vocal assistance of Crocodiles’ Brandon Welchez, sort of doolang doolangs with garage pop. The title track, comes off a little stronger, its sentiments still fixated on devotion (“I will be your girl…”).
I Will Be ends with the impassioned and melancholy balladry of Don’t Go, a quiet and personal glimpse into what may or may not be autobiographical. Either way, the song details moving on and leaving someone behind, the album’s preoccupation with love momentarily reflecting on the fear of being alone and how difficult it can be to move forward.
Though producer Richard Gottehrer, (ex-Strangeloves — “I WANNNT CANDEEEEE!”), whose production credits include The Go-Gos and Blondie, knew exactly how to present the material herein, Dum Dum Girls do revisit love’s charm without riddling it with innuendo or expletives like so many “love” singers do anymore. Combining 60s girl pop and 70s garage pop with the lo-fi mist that, admittedly, shares common ground with bands like Wavves, Vivian Girls and No Age, Dum Dum Girls come up with a very relevant and heartwarming throwback.