Dum Dum Girls – Too True

It’s not really a revelation that pop culture – yes, even pop music – is product. The Frankfurt School theorists introduced the concept of the culture industry in the mid ‘40s and Andy Warhol more famously hammered down that idea in the 1960s. Since then we’ve seen a deluge of artists, writers, filmmakers and (again) pop musicians building careers by playfully wallowing in the notion of their art as commerce, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Products (and ideas and expressions) are plastic, and such plasticity is something to be celebrated. Duh – or should I say Dum Dum.

The Dum Dum Girls’ new album, Too True, is an excellent example of such plasticity put to good use. Think of the album as fruit-flavored candy that doesn’t taste anything like real fruit – you know, Zotz or SweeTarts – or as a cheap plastic toy with bulging eyes that glows in the dark. It’s fun, flashy, and eventually forgettable. The band’s roots in the flagrantly commercial end of the late ’70s/early ’80s neo wave spectrum are obvious. But hey, that era was pretty cool in its way, wasn’t it? Like, Fiorucci forever, man!

Dum Dum Girl auteur/bassist/vocalist Dee Dee is most certainly a material girl with her sight set on mainstream success. And it makes total sense that Brill Building songwriter and Blondie producer Richard Gottehrer has been a key player in the Dum Dum Girls’ trajectory – more or less since the band’s inception. His presence on Too True is obvious. These songs would sound great in commercials, as ringtones or in movie soundtracks. Yeah, they’d sound great on the radio too. But nobody listens to the radio anymore. A pity. This is solid, melodic pop that’ll stick in your craw as instantly as Bieber, Blondie or Britney, but maintains just enough powerchord crunch and lyrical angst to give it an edge. The band sticks to a simple formula (two riffs – maybe just one, simple lyrics, a sexy “oooh” or three, then repeat) and succeeds every time.

Sure, the songs are uniformly bright and catchy. I find it curious that the standout title track, “Too True To Be Good” is held off until number five. One would think that the usual sequencing formula (put the second-best song first to hook the audience, then sock ‘em over the head with a killer track two and present the rest of the songs in descending order of importance/salability) would be used by such a careerist and flagrantly commercial act.

And hey – I’m not saying it’s inherently bad to be careerist and flagrantly commercial, either.

I’m still a bit stymied by the Dum Dum Girls, though. Taken singly or in small does, every track on Too True is good fun. The band (or should I say Dee Dee) has a great formula that unfortunately wears thin upon repetition. Once you’ve heard three or four tracks, it all seems the same.

So what we have here is basically a postmillennial new wave act that has probably been coached and molded by a Svengali, Gottehrer. Dee Dee’s got the attitude, the looks and the tunes to make it big – much in the same way that the Divinyls (“I Touch Myself”), Nena (“99 Luft Balloons”) and Elastica (whatever their song was, I can’t remember) “made it big” for a minute. If fleeting pleasure is all you’re looking for – and again, that’s not a bad thing – Too True is just the ticket.

Dum Dum Girls
Too True
[Sub Pop]