Live Review and Photos: Dum Dum Girls, May 15, 2012, The Constellation Room – Santa Ana, CA

A quick glance at the Dum Dum Girls during their Tuesday night tour kickoff performance in Orange County revealed that things have indeed changed for the band. There are superficial elements, like the platinum blonde locks that frontwoman Dee Dee is now sporting, and there are the changes in the lineup, with a new basist replacing the beloved redhead Bambi. And, while you might want to say that the backing band for Dum Dum Girls is a more important change than the color of the songwriters hair, for Dum Dum Girls, the look of the group is an integral part of who they are. After all, the band dresses in all black, equal parts tough and sexy, and has shown a revolving door attitude towards Dee Dee’s bandmates in the past. Hell, it might even be appropriate to devote a whole paragraph of a review toward Dee Dee’s hairstyle.

But, while the style of the band may be the first thing that gets some attention, Dee Dee’s songs have always been strong enough to stand on their own. Even more than that, really. On their recent album Only In Dreams, Dum Dum Girls have shown some mastery at the craft of writing infectious, timeless noise pop that seems destined for large stages and adoring audiences. Of course, this anticipated wide success has not completely arrived yet. Dum Dum Girls are still working class, seemingly always on tour, and always plotting the next release. They seem grounded and relatable, yet with enough mystery to keep you wanting to see them play again and again, as if there was some possibility of something new being revealed.

And that is the catch. The performance of Dum Dum Girls keeps the audience at arm’s length, but the music is very personal and inviting. On Only In Dreams, Dee Dee is very honest and open about her mother’s battle with cancer, but she seems removed from the experience of it all when performing live. There is little emotion to her stage manners, and the set is void of banter or laughter. In fact, it doesn’t seem like Dum Dum Girls are having much fun, but then again, who would really want them to? Vampy ladies who probably are really fond of tattoos and motorcycles don’t want to seem like they are having fun. That would spoil the mystery.

Dum Dum Girls would much rather sound good. And, sound good they did. The band offered up a few new numbers (as I said, this band always seems to be looking to the future and I wouldn’t be surprised to see another new release soon) and showcased some of their most well-known old favorites (“Bhang Bhang,” “Jail La La”). But, the stars of the set were the tunes from their most recent full-length. Rockers like “Always Looking” and (my favorite) “Heartbeat” beamed with confidence and poise, played as songs that the band should be proud of. And, even slower moments like “Rest Of Our Lives” allowed for much needed gear shifts, keeping the evening from being one-note and showing Dee Dee’s ever increasing range as a songwriter.

And, of course, there is closer “Coming Down,” which manages to be even more affecting as a show-ending climax than it is on record. It’s the kind of song that could close a high school prom or end a beautiful film; a song that demands a huge audience and hopefully one day with get it. When Dee Dee nails the hardest note that she sings all night, her face finally shows the emotion that she sings about. Yeah, “Coming Down” is potential realized, and its existence should only excite Dum Dum Girls’ fans about what is next. If anything, the band is very close to becoming an act whose hair style and wardrobe will be afterthoughts. If it is any consolation, though, we like to talk about Thom Yorke’s hair, too.

Mine Tonight
He Gets Me High
I Will Be
Bhang Bhang (I’m A Burnout)
Heartbeat (Take It Away)
Always Looking
Wasting Away
Season In Hell
Hold Your Hand
Bedroom Eyes
Rest of our Lives
I Got Nothing
Lavender Haze
Pale Saints

Jail La La
Coming Down