Expecting every album to include at least a hint of happiness and optimism is just plain “dum.”
“Too True,” Dum Dum Girls’ third studio album, channels the darkest music from two decades so close in proximity but quite different stylistically: the ‘80s and ‘90s. Drawing from influences throughout most of “Too True,” the group instills original, unfamiliar emotions in listeners by the album’s end.
What precedes “Under These Hands,” track nine, is a matter of trial and error. No aspect leaves an impression, so each cosmic guitar tone and atmospheric background noise fades faster than lead singer Dee Dee’s whispered lyrics.
Indie pop acts drifting back for sources of inspiration isn’t new: Listen to Cults’ synth-pumped 2013 release “Static” for reference. However, unlike Cults, Dum Dum Girls shy away from the stereotypical, token characteristics of new wave music to mesh their idols’ music with new ideas effectively.
The album’s first single, “Rimbaud Eyes,” features elongated and mystic notes only The Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr could better. “In the Wake of You” sounds like a simplified “Buddy Holly,” with only Rivers Cuomo’s deadpan vocals missing. “Too True” and its initial tracks balance nostalgia and excess, just like old friends at a reunion who understand some stories from the past are more appropriate than others.
With the standout tracks “Too True to be Good” and “Cult of Love,” Dum Dum Girls even incorporate gypsy rock to the ‘80s sound — imagine a strange scenario where Van Morrison and Thompson Twins form a super group. In fact, Dum Dum Girls’ ability to drift from era to era differentiates them from other acts with sights set on the ‘80s, like Haim.
When the aforementioned “Under These Hands” arrives, though, the band’s influences no longer matter. By then, Dee Dee and crew create sounds I failed to recognize while listening to any other song. Dum Dum Girls work the entire album to produce fresh, emotive music.
A gorgeous ballad, “Under These Hands” could act as the backdrop to any point in time — joyous or melancholy. The verses follow one another in a fashion that allows listeners to process the emotion before moving on.
However, Dum Dum Girls’ inability to produce originality until song nine of a 10-track album makes it seem like an identity crisis at times.
Guessing what notable acts from the past influenced contemporary artists is entertaining. But when the past overshadows the present, like throughout most of “Too True,” the ultimate takeaway seems grim: What played in our parents’ cassette players captures the essence of today better than what artists create now.
Classic tunes will always impact current music. Talented bands like Dum Dum Girls must look at rock icons like students study scholarly sources when writing research papers, though. Borrowing dabs of genius from musicians like Marr and Cuomo could expand upon the act’s original inspirations, but instead, Dum Dum Girls piece a few genuine sounds into extremely familiar territory.
Fans of both contemporary indie pop and ‘80s alternative and new wave can enjoy “Too True” because of the simple, colorful lyrics and layered instrumentals. However, listeners who enjoy the originality of bands like Arcade Fire, Vampire Weekend and The xx won’t find Dum Dum Girls’ blast from the past appealing.
Final Rating: Three out of Five Suns