Tuesday, August 9, 2011

review- dum dum girls- 'only in dreams'

Another irresistible pre-order package from Subpop. Another set of intoxicating songs from the Dum Dum Girls. Did 'I Will Be' really come out last year? It almost seems like it couldn't possibly be true given all of the 7"es that have managed to appear, disappear and reappear only to disappear once again since then. 'He Gets Me High' proved to somehow be more than enough to hold me over for the rest of the year, but then this LP drops down seemingly from heaven via an announcement less than a month ago along with a free download of it's most beautiful track, 'Coming Down.' Yes, it shamelessly cops the chord progression for 'Fade Into You.' How many people have copped the chords to 'Sweet Jane,' just ask yourself? What's more who cares when the results are this gorgeous? Given how much I listened to 'I Will Be' I often wonder how it would be possible to top that air-tight selection of songs, but then this would be the answer. The shiny production of 'He Gets Me High' is expanded on 'Only in Dreams.' Also like 'He Gets Me High' it benefits heavily from being a full band exercise. Add to that the amount of time the live band has logged on the road and it's not hard to imagine that the results would sound as vibrant and impassioned as they do. I think that the Dum Dum Girls can now lay claim to the crown of all of the current bands emanating 60's girl groups, using tons of reverb while alternating between punky pop attacks and cooing ballads. This set of songs is difficult to argue with based on their variety and melodic richness alone, which is to say nothing of the emotional punch that they pack.

'This year's been a drag, who knew it'd be so bad?' Dee Dee asks repeatedly on the midpoint track 'Caught in One.' Yep, it's difficult for me to not find some deep personal relevance in that line. It's pretty safe to assume that I'm not alone there, either. The specter of Dee Dee's (or Kristen Gundred if you prefer) mother looms heavily over these songs. Her picture graces the covers of the 'Yours Alone' EP and 'I Will Be.' Last October an opening slot for the Vaselines was cancelled so that she could be with her mother, who passed away. Several tracks deal with Gundred's grief with a graceful and very frank vulnerability. The most recent parallel that comes to mind for me is the emotionally stripped-down nature of Spiritualized's 2008 album, 'Songs in A&E.' 'Hold Your Hand' is the best example of this. 'Death is so bright' is a good example of what I'm talking about here. The record is filled with similarly brief, hard-hitting emotional lyrics. 'Coming Down' is packed with them even at six and a half minutes. The title track is particularly poignant as well. Over the bouncing, driving beat there are some beautifully heartfelt sentiments. Quintessential happy music with sad lyrics and a few well-placed sad-eyed ramblers. Another notable feature is the decreased reliance on multi-part harmonies. It seems to be in keeping with the emotional content to have Gundred's voice pushed to the front often by itself and relatively unadorned (there is still a lot of reverb, though).

I've only been listening to this record for a day so far, but it's already wreaking havoc on my year-end list (which is pretty packed). It's been an overwhelming year for music. Not quite as dense with top quality stuff as last year, but still a wealth of fantastic music. Dum Dum Girls have managed to turn in two releases that rank with the best this year. It's pretty safe to assume that there's a lot more where that came from.

Friday, August 5, 2011

ruminations- lollapalooza 2011

announcement surprising no one- i am not going to lollapalooza this year. as a matter of fact i've never been in the festival's entire history. the closest i came was in 1994 when they had one of the more bonkers lineups- smashing pumpkins, the beastie boys, nick cave, the breeders, the verve (pre-'bittersweet symphony' mind you), etc. why didn't i go? i was 15. had i made proper plans i would've saved for the $30 cost of a ticket (which to me was a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a concert at the time- ah, nostalgia). instead i stayed home and dyed my hair red.
for the first time ever, though, there is not a solitary act on the bill that i wish i could see. any of the acts i have any interest in i've already seen and/or are playing too early in the day and therefore will not pay upwards of $90 a day to see. the most money i've ever spent on concert tickets was $50 to see the cure in 2000, and i suppose that's how much it ended up costing to catch pitchfork on sunday. but every year i've wistfully wished i could go to catch at least a handful of acts- 2009 had deerhunter and neko case, for example. 2005 had the warlocks and the brian jonestown massacre. 2008 had radiohead. but this year i've barely heard of most of the headliners/big name acts. it does tickle me that bright eyes is holding the second highest spot tonight, though. i've seen him play three times in vastly different spaces- the upstairs of a tiny pub in chalk farm in london, the aladdin and the roseland in portland. but other than that i just find myself confounded that anyone would want to spend the day in the BLISTERING heat amongst an inconceivably huge and douchey throng dumping endless amounts of money on crappy food, overpriced water and the conflicting logistics of how many, eight stages? on top of that to PAY to do so. i'd spent a lot of time grumbling about how pitchfork was well on its way to becoming exactly like lollapalooza until i actually went this year and realised that at least the extra ticket money was going somewhere (i.e. the vastly improved sound over previous years) and the corporate sponsorship money was going to charity. what's more i've never seen a higher quality festival lineup in my entire life for that sunday show. normally scrambling to catch a bunch of bands at an outdoor festival ends up feeling incredibly lackluster, but i left feeling like i'd crammed more quality live music into that four hours than i normally do in a month or two (hey, it's hard to get me out of the house these days).
i suppose my point here is that i almost feel like pitchfork is proving to be what lollapalooza used to be. go through any of the original lollapalooza lineups from the first lineup to 1995's amazing lineup and tell me you don't agree. seeing bands of that caliber and at that level in an amphitheater setting was something no one had thought to do at the time. it could've only happened in the 90s, too. it's just ironic to me that twenty years on i've gone from thinking that to writing this entry.