(EP, Sub Pop)
Los Angeles’ finest first widely available release since last year’s sumptuous Only In Dreams EP is clearly demonstrative of the band’s continuing development and growing self-assuredness. Counter intuitively to this, the quintet of songs that comprise ‘End of Daze’ are a vulnerable bunch – five songs that evoke the silent introspection of sleepless nights devoted to explorations of inner space.
Lyrically, it appears that the elegiac nature of much of the disc can be viewed as vocalist Dee Dee exacting a form of catharsis upon her recent personal tragedies. However, this is a million miles removed from the bedwetted bedsitters of the Children of Stephen Morrissey – no such contrived masochistic masturbations exist here, instead a profound response is elicited by the impressionistic way in which the band lament the strands of life in which loss and regret are the strongest threads. No amount of over-literate pillow biting could ever hope to raise hairs on the back of the neck in the manner that the transcendent multi-tracked vocal climax to closer ‘Season in Hell’ achieves.
To a degree, the above comparison can be said to contrast shallow angst with genuine emotion. While the former is often represented in rock’n’roll in a peevish, self-regarding manner, the latter is the rarer chimera. While it is simplicity itself to blurt out an anguished set of lyrics about how your dad doesn’t like you, or your dog doesn’t recognise you, actually composing a poetic rendering of profound feeling takes far greater control and restraint. And that’s pretty much what the Dum Dum Girls are doing here – sonic clichés are entirely absent, as opportunities to burst from sotto voce into an affirming explosion of sound are passed over time and again. Instead, something original is made. The rolling lament of ‘Mine Tonight’ uses space to create an atmosphere of portentous longing, simultaneously evoking the duality of regret and hope – a Janus-faced internal monologue delivered via shimmering vocals and shuddering rhythms. When the band’s full majesty is orgasmically untethered it is done with such brevity as to be breathtaking. See previous point about restraint and control.
The use of space is again in evidence in ‘I Got Nothing’, which emerges as a crystalline fragment of echo-infused dreampop across which Dee Dee exalts in her nihilism. And silence is a rhythm too.
A cover of Strawberry Switchblade’s 1983 single ‘Trees and Flowers’ (good name for a band, that) employs layers of vocal purity and elegiac soundwash to transform the source material into an intimate confessional, where hearts bleed onto sleeves, scarified by self-loathing. Languid and heartfelt, ‘Lord Knows’ continues to shine a yellow night light onto the soul. Gentle shards of fuzzless guitar brush against ethereal backing vocals as what is and what will never be are weighed against one another.
Of the five songs on ‘End of Daze’, set closer ‘Season in Hell’ veers nearest to the group template of richly echoplexed guitars and sumptuous vocal renderings. However, this remains understated as the propulsive and reflective track glides toward the previously mentioned plateau with subtlety and skill. The song’s final line ‘It’s the end of daze’ hints at a renewal of focus, which again promises us something new and wonderful.
End of Daze is released on 24 September