Douglas Martin ghostwrote Dee Dee King’s “Funky Man”
It’s appropriate that Dee Dee Dum, head Dum Dum Girl and aesthetic inspiration for introverted, gothy kids the world over, named her 2012 EP End of Daze. There’s the obvious narrative of Kristen Gundred’s mother passing away and the feeling of living in a storm cloud while dealing with the loss of a loved one. There’s also the case of her 2011 full-length Only in Dreams, revered for being an artistic work shared as she was dealing with painful loss.
The only problem was that, creatively and musically, it wasn’t very good. And speaking on an artist’s album inspired by their dead mother is the critic’s equivalent of speaking on the dead itself, so everyone either loved it or pretended really hard to love it. I personally thought it was last year’s most disappointing record, so you’d be entirely justified if, like this site’s Jonah Bromwich, you felt I was turning my back on one of this era’s most promising musicians.
But everybody writes at least one bad album, right? Even the greatest recording artists squandered their perfect batting averages, correct? In rock music, as in Cooperstown, one-for-three will get you in the hall of fame. An artist’s quality shouldn’t be defined by the one mediocre record, and that’s certainly the case of Dum Dum Girls, who followed up their nadir of Only in Dreams with the best eighteen minutes they’ve yet laid to tape.
The quiet opening seconds of “Mine Tonight” ends with the refrain: “I’ve dreamed a death / It’s mine tonight,” before a maelstrom of trebly guitars and skittering cymbals overtake the stage. Dee Dee sings about doing a once-over of her eulogy, fantasizes about being struck still by a kiss, and generally sounds like she feels great about this, even when she begs for rescue. On “I Got Nothing,” she divorces herself from the tragedies of the past two years of her life. We all know that there can be creative gold spun from harrowing events, but Dee Dee moves in from it in a decisively inspiring way, and her material doesn’t fault for one second for it.
As on other EP’s, Dee Dee has a pretty focused curational aesthetic, covering Strawberry Switchblade’s “Trees and Flowers.” Thematically, it’s perfect for End of Daze with Dee Dee transforming the song into a half-droning ballad, highlighting her gorgeous voice and vulnerably turning the lines, “I get so frightened/No one else seems frightened” into emotionally devastating peeks into her own life.
Dee Dee had already impressively turned her group into the aesthetic ideal Rock Band, when so many of her peers are perfectly fine with hitting the stage in the same flannels and ripped jeans they wore yesterday. So to see that she’s finally turning that focused aesthetic into her work has sent her band to heights they’ve never been before. This comes after their goth-formal dress code, after the idea of covering both Black Tambourine and the Smiths, and basically ripping off GG Allin on their very first release.
But at the same time, she says the most poignant lyric of her career in the Rimbaud-referencing closing track, “Season of Hell:” “A profession is not a cure.” So maybe she’s gotten past her troubles musically, but in life, they never go away. All you can do is start a new era, and Dee Dee knows this intrinsically. And in that way, End of Daze makes for one hell of a new beginning.
MP3: Dum Dum Girls – “Lord Knows”