When Dum Dum Girls made the leap from songwriter Dee Dee’s bedroom to Sub Pop for 2010’s debut LP I Will Be, those unfamiliar with the project’s backlog of EPs and singles could easily make the mistake of judging the band from their press photo, depicting four vampy women dressed in all black while standing on the beach, equal parts Joey Ramone and Bettie Page. Idiosyncrasies like a uniform of leather and stockings, the all-female band membership requirement, and even the decision for each band member to go by single-word nicknames might have worked against the band in some ways, with many thinking that they already knew what the girls would sound like without listening, and others simply showing skepticism in anything with an obvious image agenda. But, over the course of what seems like a wealth of recorded material in a relatively short amount of time, Dum Dum Girls have won over critics and listeners alike by overshadowing this image with increasingly affecting and surprising music.
On their newest offering, the five-song End of Daze EP, naysayers who would look to pigeon-hole Dum Dum Girls by a “look” or a “sound” should readily concede that Dee Dee’s songs continue expand on her range, leaving a band whose musical trajectory seemed predictable with an ever-increasing ceiling, both commercially and artistically. Using I Will Be’s jumping-off reference points of ‘60s girl groups, punk and ‘80s gloomy post-punk, subsequent releases have seen Dee Dee write from deeply personal spaces about death, love, and loss. End of Daze continues with this, recorded immediately after last year’s Only in Dreams and working almost as an appendix to that full length. Here we see Dee Dee’s grief from her mother’s battle with cancer and eventual death consuming her even further than on Only in Dreams, making it an unflinchingly sad record, but also a very honest and beautiful one.
From the driving and grand scale of the self-eulogy “Mine Tonight” to the surprising minimalism of the upbeat “I Got Nothing,” Dum Dum Girls are nearly unrecognizable from the band we met a couple years back, and the transformation is a mostly successful one. “Mine Tonight” is a revelation, building tension with the sludgy distortion of the guitar strums in the verse until the eventual explosion of sound that is predictably fulfilling. First single “Lord Knows” is just as moody, but with a maturity in Dee Dee’s voice matching a newfound maturity in her songwriting. Lyrics aside, the arrangements on End of Daze steer away from easily classifiable terms like “ballads” and “rockers.” No, the songs are much more complex than that.
Dee Dee is even a smart enough songwriter to know when her airing of her personal baggage might be wearing thin, and she maintains control of her emotional outpour up until the release’s closing moments. Ultimately, Dee Dee confirms that “a confession is not cure / there is always darkness to endure / on the path to be redeemed” on the closer “Season in Hell,” with hope seen in the final moments when Dee Dee notices that after these hard times, the “dawn looks divine.” End of Daze is a brief trip through a songwriter’s grief, and one with enhanced by lyrical honesty and musical risks. Maybe most importantly, the End of Daze EP cements Dum Dum Girls as a band that should be taken seriously and whose look has become the least interesting part about them.