Rating: 3/5Since their full-length debut, I Will Be, in 2010, Dum Dum Girls’ profile has soared astronomically. But like many a band that appear to emerge fully formed from the head of indie rock, there’s been years of development behind their recent success. Bandleader/vocalist/guitarist Dee Dee (nee Kristin Gundred) is a veteran of various scenes, including a stint as the drummer of Grand Ole Party. Nor is the image Dum Dum Girls presents without precedent; the clad in black, ice won’t melt in their mouths rocker persona of the group is drawn from some pretty clear ancestors, most notably the Ramones and the Jesus and Mary Chain. But like many of her peers, Dee Dee has a certain problem: how to distinguish oneself in a genre that necessitates a certain image and sound?
With both I Will Be and its follow up, Only in Dreams (2011), Dee Dee (who for all intents and purposes, is the band with several back up members) relied on a skewed take on garage rock mixed with the romanticism of Roy Orbison and the detached vocals of Siouxsie Sioux. The new EP End of Daze is no exception to this. In fact, it may simply be a refinement of those same elements; a more cynical soul may say it’s more of a holding pattern for wherever her third proper album will take her, but let’s leave that to those jerks. The five tracks of End of Daze (which clock in at 18 minutes, making them neither brief rockers nor drawn out numbers) are all perfectly serviceable songs, but they do lack a certain sense of urgency that hopefully doesn’t indicate an uncertainness of Dee Dee’s new direction.
“Mine Tonight” opens with a buzzy, down-tuned guitar, until drums almost imperceptibly enter and Dee Dee’s flat voice begins with “Satan on my lips/ Paralyzed by his wicked kiss/ Taking baby sips/ To keep an eye on what I might miss.” It’s a dark sentiment expressed in nearly a drone, which makes it all that much more intriguing. When the chorus kicks in with a squealing guitar, the change is that much more powerful. “I Got Nothing” begins with a quick, upbeat drumbeat, but may be the most mournful of a batch of decidedly somber songs, “I got nothing/ Left to say/ From this day on” being the chorus of a ringing, reverbed guitar lead. “Trees and Flowers” may be the only dud on the album, with Dee Dee singing a too simple melody over a jangling guitar that lasts far too long at four minutes. It almost sounds like she’s trying to channel Julee Cruise, but she simply doesn’t have the pipes for it. Not that that’s a bad thing. More often than not, Dee Dee has the warmer, more measured tones of Chrissie Hynde, which humanizes her sometimes melodramatic lyrics.
While it’s a pleasant, mellow song, “Lord Knows” rips off the “Sweet Jane” riff (by way of Cowboy Junkies) a little too obviously. It’s fortunately saved by a powerful vocal, but a musician so invested in rock history should know better than to let it show that obviously. “Season in Hell” closes out End of Daze on perhaps its most upbeat moment, a quicker beat and a more invigorating riff building to Dee Dee’s question, “Doesn’t dawn look divine?/ It’s the end of days.” It’s a bittersweet ending to the kind of music that should be listened to in a late night depression, one that will both bring you down and cheer you a little. For that, it’s successful. But End of Daze also doesn’t show much musical movement or evolution. I guess we’ll have to wait for the next album to see.