Ah, the dreaded third album, the bane of many a bright young indie rock band. It has the potential to utterly sink your career with its bloated overindulgence, or to quietly slip under the radar, only to resurface after the initial critical dismissal to be retroactively proclaimed as an overlooked gem. Dum Dum Girls, however, seem poised to boldly strike out from the pack as they’ve done time and again, and make one that’s entirely forgettable and middle-of-the-road. Sure, ol’ Dee Dee and the gang do their share of experimentation, drawing on the admirable likes of Siouxsie & the Banshees and The Cure, but this conscious break from their previous material results in a record that is far less distinctive than anyone would have expected. Given that ‘I Will Be’ was such an improvement over their utterly bland debut, their third album seemed so promising. But perhaps in an effort to appease more mainstream audiences and court some of the bored recently-ex-teenagers that Haim stole away, ‘Too True’ got all the soul sucked out of it.
The album starts off strong enough, which for an album that’s only 30 minutes long bodes well for it as a whole, with “Cult of Love.” It’s sexy, claustrophobic, and bouncy all at the same time, effortlessly mixing their garage pop past with the goth-y maturity of their future. Dee Dee’s lyrics portray a femme fatale kind of detachment, with just a hint of desperation, hidden as if beneath a sigh. This is followed by the more lightweight “Evil Blooms,” which builds upon what we’ve heard so far with something more fittingly danceable now that the weight has seemingly been lifted from our shoulders about what to expect from this album.
However, it’s all downhill from here. We’re led into a ghost of a lead single, “Rimbaud Eyes” – the latest in the saga of the “Eyes” singles. It feels like any effort that was put into this song at all was put solely on the chorus, which is itself not even the strongest on the album, and ultimately it feels like this could be a filler track on one of those 80s compilations they sell on late-night infomercials, sandwiched right between “Turning Japanese” and “I Ran (So Far Away).”The energy continues to sag as we continue on to “Are You Okay?”which features such shallow lyrics as “sometimes my heart is pure/sometimes I know it’s not,” which seems so devoid of any meaning or thought that one can only infer that however pure Dee Dee’s heart, it’s definitely not present in this album.
“Too True To Be Good” picks up the slack a bit, but is nowhere near being any kind of standout track. The upbeat nature of otherwise vapid track “In The Wake of You” really just made me feel kind of depressed that this was the same band that wrote “Bedroom Eyes,” which, I had naively thought, was the definitive statement which would set them apart from the likes of Nada Surf, Surfer Blood, et. al. surfer dudes. “Little Minx” picks up the pace a little, and “Under These Hands” wouldn’t serve terribly if it were to play over the closing credits of “Pretty In Pink” or anything, but by this point the album has mostly lost the chance of being a really great piece of work. Contrary to what you may think from reading this far, the album isn’t bad necessarily, just pretty average, which is made all the worse considering how good ‘I Will Be Was.’ However, “Trouble Is My Name” is what really makes me think that there’s hope for the Girls yet. The fact that it sounds the most like their previous work out of anything on this album probably says a lot about where they should go from here, but suffice it to say that all is not yet in the Dum Dum camp.
It’s frustrating that at every stumbling block they could have come upon on this album, Dum Dum Girls got tripped up on almost every one. From the hollow lyrics to the derivative, road-to-nowhere musical experiments, ‘Too True’ missed any opportunity it had to build upon what their previous album had set the groundwork for. But from the standout tracks, it seems like Dee Dee Penny certainly still has it in her to make something truly memorable, and such lulls can often set the stage for triumphant comebacks.
Recommended Tracks: Cult of Love, Evil Blooms, Trouble Is My Name