80s pop rock, meet 2014 indie girl bands.
Dum Dum Girls, America's underground indie rock sweethearts, released the group's fifth album last week entitled "Too True" that hints at retro influences while successfully maintaining the band's riot girl edge.
At first, the album catches the listener off-guard. As the first track, "Cult of Love," cuts right into what feels like the middle of the beat; confusion is not an uncommon reaction. You may even restart the song once or twice just to make sure you did not miss anything.
However, as you let it all sink in, you realize that you are listening to a revived 80s rock band that time traveled to present day – minus the perms, glitter and cheesy lyrics, though. Don't worry.
Instead, listeners are gifted with hints of the past decade's underground scene's dreamy guitar riffs while lead singer Dee Dee Penny's rough but wispy vocals call to mind an image of The Pretenders.
This may seem like too strange a genre to sound good, but lately California has been pumping out bands with retro influences mixed with L.A. grunge or surf pop. And somehow, Dum Dum Girls has managed to mix all three.
Beyond the 80s influence, there is something about these California girls that give them that angry, mean sound. Partially, it is simply the comparison between this album and the four previous. The drums are heavier. The bass is deeper. The guitar is dirtier.
Formerly, the Dum Dum Girls' music was more lightly punk, and now the group is delving further into the scene. Even the track titles evoke a darker image with "Evil Blooms" and "Rimbaud Eyes."
In "Rimbaud Eyes," despite the poppy, Beach Boys-esque beat, lines such as "Truly, I have wept too much / In the dawns are heart breakers / Every moon is atrocious, every sun bitter / Sharp love has swollen me up," paint pictures of angry girls in leather and ripped jeans contemplating the universe along the beach.
The thing that stands out about this album is its imagery. Sometimes, you can hardly understand what Penny is singing, but the emotion in her voice creates the picture, and the best thing about when musicians are capable of that is the meaning that arises in a song. While maybe not the message intended by the artist, a mental visual helps connect listeners in a way they may not normally experience music.
However, Dum Dum Girls did not forget the group's roots.
It is a trend among California bands to let at least one of their songs remind you that they are from California. In "Too True," there is an underlying feel to nearly every song that reminds the listener if you just listen close enough.
Some tracks are reminiscent of electronic, dirty clubs. Others invoke surfer babes tanning on the beach. And some recall the Summer of Love with hippie lightheartedness.
These seem like strange combinations to keep on one album. However, the dreamy 80s feel ties them neatly together. Somehow, Dum Dum Girls managed to revive the 80s without everything our parents ever claimed to hate about them.