Dum Dum Girls
XOYO, London
September 28, 2010

California girls. Beach Boys praised them, Katy Perry revived them, but Los Angeles’ Dum Dum Girls are the kind of girls that either Brian Wilson or Katy Perry had in mind. Palm trees, bikinis and suntans aren’t their domain, in fact, it would be surprising if daylight ever graced their chalk-white skin, looking as they do Josie and The Pussycats meets Tim Burton. Their ‘Josie’ in this case is Kristin Gundred aka Dee Dee, a woman last seen behind the drum kit of San Diego band Grand Ole Party beating out a little Karen O flavoured blues. Having found a perfect foil in the form of Richard Gottehrer, writer of 60’s classics like “My Boyfriend’s Back” and “I Want Candy”, Dum Dum Girls released their Gottehrer-produced, ’60s garage-inspired debut album I Will Be earlier this year.

On stage in the newly opened (and un-divey) East London venue XOYO, Dum Dum Girls are Dee Dee. The all-girl band she’s assembled acts as both an extension of her psyche, and a mirror to how she dresses. The similarity in style lends itself to unified ‘gang’ look, but it also feels if Dee Dee could clone herself and play all the instruments I’m sure she probably would. In London right now, there’s no other obvious band to compare them to who are so clear cut in who they are and what they do. When Dee Dee enlisted Gottehrer to record the album, she knew the kind of sound she had in mind, but that sugar-sweetened, leather-jacketed motorcycle hum, which would’ve sounded great on the radio as a child, doesn’t burst into life off-record.

The one great downfall of Dum Dum Girls in a live situation is that there’s barely any deviation in form. They play together and they stay together. The low rumble of bass and drums maintain a steady rhythm you could program a drum machine to, while the guitars and vocals embed themselves so deeply in the music that they’re all compressed into one melodic too brief buzz. There are moments in the set where they transcend their own limitations. The split second where Dee Dee goes “oh-god-oh” before the rest of the band stampede past on “Jail La La”, the tear-shedding serenade of “Baby Don’t Go”. The latter acts as a necessary mood shift, but you’re still begging them to drop character, change gears, or do something that isn’t so Ramones-like in deployment.

If you took a switchblade and cut to the heart of Dum Dum Girls, you’d find it’s not so cold and lifeless. Dum Dum Girls have hit on a neat goth garage bubblegum schtick, but they aren‘t threatening enough to command your attention, or enigmatic enough to hold it. With all the black, white and lipstick red on show, all that’s missing is a little more colour.