It would be reasonable to assume that if a band wanders onto the national stage toting a style that has enjoyed a remarkable surge in popularity in the past few years, they’d be viewed as interlopers, or at the very least as bandwagon-hoppers. But such is the skill of the Dum Dum Girls that they can show up with a grab bag of lo-fi pop tunes and a clear girl-group fetish and not only hold their own amongst the many similar popular acts, but actually stand out as one of the better examples of the form. I know I’m not alone in feeling a little worn out on hyper-pop tunes concealed in deliberately skuzzy recordings, so it seemed unlikely that the Dum Dum Girls would win me over, much less land on Sub Pop. Yet the Dum Dum Girls debut album, I Will Be, is rife with obvious charms, even if it doesn’t necessarily add up to anything of much consequence.
The success of I Will Be isn’t based on any original attributes specific to the Dum Dum Girls. It really boils down to the tunes, even though they are difficult to distinguish from each other. Of the 11 tracks, eight are two-to-three minutes long and almost the exact same hyper tempo. The remaining three are comprised of a jangly, mid-tempo number (“Blank Girl”) and two slower, dreamier songs (“Rest Of Our Lives”, “Baby, Don’t Go”), the latter of which is a Sonny & Cher cover. The Dum Dum Girls can get away with this repetitive approach for a couple of reasons. First of all, the record is twenty-eight minutes long, not nearly enough time to get agitated about the lack of variety. And secondly, the songs are all immediately likeable, unfussy and written with modest ambition. The Vaselines are a pretty obvious point of reference, and not just because their song “Dum Dum” is reportedly part of the inspiration for the moniker.
Unlike the Vaselines, it isn’t inevitable that you’ll absolutely need to hear these songs again and again. Despite the fact that there isn’t a bum track on I Will Be, I chose to assign this album a 7.5 out of 10, and it really was one of the easier grading choices I’ve had to make. I Will Be is, front-to-back, good, not great, and it’s quite easy to know how you feel about this record after one listen. If you like opener “It Only Takes One Night,” then it’s reasonable to assume you’ll like just about everything that follows it. It would be nice to speculate that if the Dum Dum Girls put more time and effort into switching up their arrangements and general songwriting approach a little, they could be something extraordinary. Yet I Will Be is the work of a band that is obviously comfortable in their world of unassuming, spontaneous indie rock. And if the results are always this engaging, then it would be silly and downright ungrateful to complain.