Review: Dum Dum Girls’ “He Gets Me High” EP

Fresh off of the success of the magnificently buzz-worthy 2010 album, “I Will Be,” Dum Dum Girls’ leader Dee Dee (A.K.A. Kristin Gundred) went right back into the studio with that album’s legendary producer Richard Gottehrer, this time also taking along Sune Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes.  The three musicians make an interesting combo.  Dee Dee is the mastermind, Gottehrer is the seasoned legend (He co-wrote “My Boyfriend’s Back” and “I Want Candy.” He also co-founded Sire Records with Seymour Stein.) and Wagner is there to maintain a sense of cool and perhaps to add a little polish.  Gottehrer and Wagner have worked together before, so his addition to the mix is not all that surprising, especially considering his group’s similar brand of fuzz-pop. “I Will Be” was a stunning, loud, energetic, dirty-sounding record.  I have listened to it over three-hundred times all the way through and I still can’t get enough.  It ranked #2 on my list of the Top Fifty Best Albums of 2010.  But if you listen to that record and then hear a live performance from the band, they sound very different from each other.  The album was drenched in distortion and feedback and Dee Dee’s voice was often buried under copious layers of sound and noise.  There are many live clips on youtube and they reveal that Dee Dee actually possibly possesses the most beautifully clear voice in indie rock right now. (I am neither joking nor overstating. Her voice is flawless.) This fact is obviously realized by this collection’s three sonic architects, because the fuzz gets turned down a little and her voice gets turned way up.  The four songs contained on here sound much sunnier because of this decision.  “Wrong Feels Right” is a gloriously beautiful pop song and Dee Dee’s voice really shines through immediately.  With the kind of fuzz and distortion found on the group’s debut, she wouldn’t have popped as strongly.  This track is full of brightness and glee as she sings, “It happened over night. / It’s wrong but it feels right.”  At the same time, this track mines similar territory as the Raveonettes’ 2009 single, “Last Dance.”  I dare any pop radio station to have the guts to throw “Wrong Feels Right” into rotation.  I guarantee that the phones will start ringing off the hook with listeners wondering where they can find it.  That being said, I do think we are in the beginning stages of another coming alternative boom, so adding this to a pop format may not be as amazing or as groundbreaking a move as I may think. The EP’s title track is next.  It’s a “Nuggets”-ready, fuzzy rocker with Dee Dee singing a melody in a downward scale.  When the chorus kicks in, she sings again in a brighter tone, all the while harmonizing with herself.  She sings, “Oh words don’t fail me now. / I must win you over somehow / To This side of the dream. / You’ve brought me to my knees.”  You can hear her sense of longing. The song is reminiscent of the Bangles’ most psychedelic work. Like the disc’s opener, this is indeed a highlight. “Take Care Of My Baby” is the final original on the set.  It’s the kind of loving, retro lullaby that makes me think Dee Dee could probably record a stellar rendition of “Dream A Little Dream Of Me.”  Again, her voice is in the center and that allows the emotion in her intimate lyrics to fully come through.  The disc closes with a cover.  Recording a version of The Smiths’ “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” is daring.  No doubt there are Smiths fans out there who will view this as an act of sacrilege.  Many people have covered this song before and have come up with mixed results.  On his first “7 Worlds Collide” collection, Neil Finn did a pretty impressive version with Johnny Marr on guitar.  On the other side of the spectrum, Joseph Arthur recorded a darker, messier, unsuccessful version that lost the song’s original melody. This is arguably the best track that Morrissey and Marr ever wrote together, so if you are going to attempt it, you better not mess it up.  It could be one of the most beautifully tragic songs ever written.  So, the question is, how does one approach such a masterpiece?  Dee Dee, Gottehrer and Wagner obviously thought about this a great deal because this is an epic, soaring, downright reverently PERFECT cover.  Morrissey and Marr’s arrangement remains intact, with every bit of instrumental melody handled by a guitar layer.  Somehow Dee Dee and company made the song loud and bold without messing with its integrity.  This is a must-listen for any Smiths fan, because it is obvious that this cover was recorded with love.  Dee Dee easily sings Morrissey’s often complicated and prose-like lyrics, infusing a warm femininity not found in the original.  It’s one of the rare covers that doesn’t pale against the original.  That in itself is a difficult feat.  Well done, indeed! This brief collection shows growth and continuing promise while still maintaining the addictive properties of “I Will Be.”  The music is retro yet rejuvenating.  One hopes that it will be a sonic stepping stone for an equally confident second full-length.  I can say this for sure.  Dum Dum Girls have a big future ahead. Dee Dee is a star performer and this act ranks among the best on Sub Pop Records’ current roster.  My only complaint is that four songs just aren’t enough.  I really want more!  Hopefully, you will, too!

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