A love of Suede, Stone Roses, Siouxsie Sioux and surrealism fed into her attempt to "chase pop into the dark". Which is to say she wants to make her earlier stripy-tights-and-bowl-cut garage-punk seem more sophisticated. For Dee Dee, that's by way of shoegaze: Cult of Love and Evil Blooms are all swirling vocals and rockabilly riffs, like School of Seven Bells penning grindhouse tunes with Goldfrapp. Are Your Okay?, meanwhile, paints Dee Dee as a woozier Chrissie Hynde. But by the time you reach Lost Boys and Girls Club, the album has overmedicated with reverb and fist-biting lyrics (pain, pleasure, exes, hexes). There are brief moments of greatness but between that and songs like Trouble Is My Name – naughty! – Too True is as squeamish as it is smouldering.
Penny recognizes, accepts, and moves beyond wistfulness to embracing the possibility of the open road at this point in her career. “There’s no particular place we are going, but we’re going,” she affirms on “Lost Boys and Girls Club”, plucking at the gauzy reverb of late ’80s Lush records. Still, there’s work to be done in order to give herself over to chance. On title track “Too True to Be Good”, Penny is still wrestling with her phantoms. “It’s hard to outrun the devil from behind,” she admits.
The goth pop spirit of Siouxsie Sioux fittingly shadows this somber record, but Penny simply doesn’t possess the same cataclysmic presence as The Banshees’ volatile singer. A certain caustic texture is missing here for Penny to take full command, perhaps shed for the taut studio arrangements. The punchy Too True sheds the woozy energy that made the achy bedroom jangles of debut I Will Be feel so immediate, although it’s difficult to place the two records side by side — Dum Dum Girls have evolved so far at this point, they might as well be a different band.
Still, a familiar shroud overcasts the ghoulish synths and fuzzy tambourines of “Evil Bloom”, and Penny manages to pull one hell of a line out of her studded leather jacket sleeve on “Lost Boys and Girls Club” (“Your eyes are black exes of hate and hexes”). The gossamer veils of ’80s dream pop, offering a sweet way to talk about sadness, are cast aside for more strobes, synthesizers, and Siouxsie. While the synth-happy instrumentation is laid on perhaps a little thick, the effort offers a handful of pop gems in return. “In the Wake of You” might be one of the catchiest songs about being completely devastated by someone, and the burning “Are You Okay” is instant hum material.
But Dum Dum Girls have a special penchant for concluding their records on poignant notes. During closing track “Trouble Is My Name”, Penny admits that despite her best efforts otherwise, she can never escape trouble completely. Old habits die hard, and Too True explores the implications of trying — and perhaps failing — to give yourself over to the uncertainty of the future.
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