“My muse is not a horse and I am in no horse race.” None other than Nick Cave wrote those words in October 1996 as part of a letter to MTV politely refusing a nomination for Best Male Artist. 18 years later, the Australian’s pithy words helped to inspire Dee Dee Penny, while writing her band’s third album, to “set the muse free”.
The concept of a muse is a fascinating one in the context of the Dum Dum Girls‘ third album, for by the sound of it, Penny’s muse is clad all in black, wearing badly applied eye make-up and sitting on a bench in the mid-’80s somewhere looking sad. For, although the effervescence that marked previous Dum Dum Girls’ albums is still present and correct, Too True marks a darker, more Gothic, direction.
It’s a direction that Penny herself alludes to in the album’s pre-publicity – names like Siouxsie, Echo & The Bunnymen, the Velvet Underground and Patti Smith have all been cited as influences, and it’s certainly possible to see Too True as a companion piece to another throwback to the gloomy ’80s, last year’s excellent debut by Savages, Silence Yourself.
Thankfully, for all those who have fallen in love with the jangly guitars and glorious choruses that marked previous Dum Dum Girls records, they haven’t shrugged off their pop sensibility. Rimbaud Eyes, for instance, is a beauty – three and a half minutes of fuzzy pop bliss, while In The Wake Of You performs a similar trick, only even better executed. Regular collaborator Richard Gotterher is still present behind the production desk, together with The Raveonettes‘ Sune Rose Wagner, and there’s more of a hint of the Danish noise-pop’s scuzz and grime throughout the album.
Too True is very much a guitarist’s dream of an album, with almost every track firing off an impressive riff. Opening track Cult Of Love features a twangy solo seemingly transported from the ’50s era of Hank Marvin, while the Bunnymen’s Will Sergeant is paid homage to on the driving Little Minx. There’s even room for a delicately strummed acoustic guitar on the blissfully laid-back album highlight Are You Okay.
It’s fair to say though that the album doesn’t really hang together as it should. With a running time of just over half an hour, filler should be at a minimum, but tracks such as Too Good To Be True and the closing, languid yawn of Trouble Is My Name just seem to drift through without leaving much of an impression. It’s not that they’re bad songs, just a bit average, and it’s that which stops Too True from being a great album rather than a good one.
However, it does remain a fine listen, especially for anyone enamoured of fuzzy guitars and some swooning vocals from Penny. It’s another enjoyable album from a band quietly proving to be one of the more consistent groups around.