If, in some strange Desert Island Discs twist of fate, I was told that I was allowed to have only one trait as a musician, I would choose “personality.” From my experience in the industry thus far, I would say “personality” feels like one of the hardest things to truly have. If you have an idea of what you want to do with your creative output/career/self, you need to hold onto that with both hands, as tightly as possible, as countless individuals will tell you what they think your personality should be, how they perceive you to be, or how you should want to be perceived to be. And if you don’t have an understanding of your own musical personality, then fear not — there exists a similar plethora of folks ready and willing to hand you a persona that you can adopt and run with, only having to check in every so often with the marketing Powers That Be.
(I will not mention any specific names here because I am not Azealia Banks and I don’t like starting fights with people on the internet.)
(Shit. Does this ↑ count as starting fights with people on the internet? Shit.)
Finding your own voice and sharing your own ideas can sometimes feel like a difficult and intimidating thing to do (especially when pitted against a media who seem to be either clamouring for THE NEXT BIG THING or comparing every band to every other band that has existed before them) but this is one of the things I hear when I listen to Too True, Dum Dum Girls’ third studio album: a clear, defined idea of self.
Although there are certain elements of the band’s sound which hark back to their predecessors — the chorus vocal on “Rimbaud Eyes” is strangely Debbie Harry-esque, with some very Billy Idol/”White Wedding” keys on “In the Wake of You” — it would be unfair to labour Dum Dum Girls with purely “retro” or “nostalgic” tags, as some popular music review sites have done. (Again, no names. See previous argument re: Azealia Banks.) This latest album manages to marry these influences well with their own mood — a presence, almost.
The whole album has the feel of a first-person perspective (which makes sense, given that singer Dee Dee describes herself as introspective, and the press release which accompanies Too True says that she locked herself away from the world during the writing of the record), maybe in a road movie like Thelma and Louise or Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The guitar tones of opener “Cult of Love” set the desert-friendly tone early on, picked up again later by tracks like “Little Minx,” which wouldn’t feel out of place in a Western movie chase scene — and I mean that as a compliment.
Lyrically, there is often a sense of disappointment tangled with hope. In the rumbling verses of “Evil Blooms,” for example, Dee Dee sings, “There is such bliss when you’ve no plan” and “Be beautiful and sad/it’s all you’ve ever had.” The title of pre-album single “Lost Boys and Girls Club” is a good indicator of the mood of the song it represents. Sort-of title track “Too True to Be Good” exemplifies Dum Dum Girls’ ability to use seemingly bright and sunshine-slicked sounds alongside lyrical content that teeters on the edge of downright sad, coo-cooing the song title in the chorus to draw a line under what seems to be the story of a failed love affair.
The album closes with what has become my favourite track, the almost-ballad “Trouble Is My Name.” If Too True were actually a movie soundtrack, this would be the song that plays when the (anti)heroes drive into the horizon, the sun going down, their fate uncertain but with some kind of bittersweet resolution, as Dee Dee sings, “I had a vision I wanted to be dead, and you said there’s nothing you can do to make all your bad turn good.”