Dum Dum Girls

Only in Dreams

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Expecting the second Dum Dum Girls record to be much like the first one is a bit of a losing proposition. Only in Dreams is a much more fully formed and “real” sounding record that makes a huge leap from the bedroom to the studio, and could leave some of the band’s original fans shaking their heads at some of the changes the band’s leader Dee Dee has made. Instead of recording by herself, she formed a regular band and trusts them to play and sing with her throughout. She also sings with a newfound confidence and strength (and a resemblance to Chrissie Hynde), so instead of burying her vocals in the murky mix, they are out front now. The album's producers, Richard Gottehrer and Sune Rose Wagner (of the Raveonettes), put the focus squarely on Dee Dee's voice, dialing back the guitar noise and fattening the sound of the rhythm section. Not surprisingly, it sounds like a record made by a full band playing together, and miles more together seeming than Dee Dee's early work. The songs, too, are much more real, focusing on her mother’s recent passing and the heartache brought on by conflicting touring schedules that kept her apart from her husband for much of the time she was writing songs for the album. She’s not an incredibly deep lyricist, but her plain-spoken emotion hits hard at times, especially when delivered in her tough and tender vocals. All this realness could be a deal breaker especially since Only in Dreams isn’t a fun and immediately enjoyable album like I Will Be was; indeed, the main theme can be summed up in the lyrics in the heartbreaking “Caught in One” (“this year’s been a drag/who knew it’d be so bad?”). Despite the changes to the sound and approach, there is plenty to like about the band and the album. Dee Dee still writes catchy-as-can-be hooks on the rockers ("Bedroom Eyes," "Just a Creep" and "Teardrops on My Pillow" to name a few) that make up the bulk of the record; she can break a heart instantly on a ballad (as on "Hold Your Hand"), and the choice to feature her voice was a good one as she can convey tons of emotion and pain without trying too hard, and just sounds really good and strong. The only real stumble on the record occurs on "Coming Down," where the tempo gets dragged to Mazzy Star levels of torpor and Dee Dee indulges in some ill-advised warbling. Otherwise, it’s a more mature and well-rounded Dum Dum Girls on Only in Dreams and if that turns off fans of their early work, too bad. Dee Dee had to change, the change was good, and it led to a fine, grown-up guitar pop record.

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