A musical project like Dee Dee Penny’s Dum Dum Girls does well to wear its influences on its sleeve. Building on two strong full-lengths and a handful of EPs, Too True is a collection of well-polished songs that showcases Penny’s songwriting developments and returns to the strengths of 2010’s I Will Be by abandoning the pre-fab girl group approach by letting the leadwoman do her thing in peace. While many of the songs sound remarkably similar to songs past, Penny continues to hone her skills by experimenting with darker lyrics and wider influences. The album was produced by Richard Gottehrer, of Blondie and Go-Go’s fame, and Sune Rose Wagner of the Raveonettes, both of whom clearly know what makes a song a hit. What comes off initially as a slightly unremarkable release increases in nuance and depth with each subsequent listen.
The album’s first single, “Lost Boys and Girls Club”, smacks of the London Suede, and Penny is the first to admit as much. There is something slick and dirty about the track, and it leaves the listener feeling slightly unsettled. A dark bass line and metallic guitar solos guide the breathy, highly overdramatic vocals. That this track was released as part of an H&M promotion should come as little surprise to fans of the band who have watched the Dum Dum Girls’ popularity grow – the H&M junior fashionista set is the logical next target group.
This album is genuinely packed with prospective singles. “Evil Blooms”, the second track, is almost identical to Only In Dreams’ “Always Looking” in tempo and chord progression, and yet this does not hurt the song in the least. Penny has found a formula, and does well to repeat it. “Evil Blooms” is another unveiled homage to Penny’s influences, as she admits to reading Baudelaire during the songwriting process, and, as far as inspiration goes, one is hard-pressed to find fault with deriving it from Les Fleurs Du Mal.
Where it’s hard to suppress a laugh, however, is on “Rimbaud Eyes”, which, as sultry a song as it is, where we are led to “bathe in langours”, is a literal flip of one of Only In Dreams’ strongest singles, “Bedroom Eyes”. Aside from the Dum Dum Girls’ shockingly lackluster live shows, the band also suffers from a stunted vocabulary and a penchant for calculated, empty rhymes.
Somehow, though, even the weakest tracks on Too True prove to be growers. The title track is a dreamy masterpiece of sorts, all swirls, sweetness and sadness. “Are You Okay”, despite the vapid chorus, is perhaps the most genuine love on the album, highlighting the fact that sometimes, stripping away the “lavender haze” of clever lyrics can provide a path to artistic insight. Too True proves to be a perfectly balanced pairing of lofty inspiration and creative genius, and should help to cement the Dum Dum Girls as one of the best girl bands in business.