Sporting black leather jackets, bright red lipstick and hangdog poses, Dum Dum Girls resemble high-school dropouts from another time – the ’50s, maybe; or maybe it’s the ’60s; or maybe it’s the ’80s. Whenever it is, it’s not now. But no assembly of retro references, however clever, will get you to sing with a voice as bold, outsized and sad as Kristin Gundred, nor will they get you to write melodies as instantly indelible as she can either. Over the course of two albums, and now two EPs, her band has gone from playing misfit little garage songs punctuated by “bang-bang”s and “la-la”s to dark, glittering music exploring resignation, regret, and other big subjects that sound surprising coming from a band calling themselves “Dum Dum Girls.”
End of Daze, their latest, follows in the footsteps of convincingly sad bands from the Shangri-Las to the Smiths: They treat raw emotional vulnerability with musical confidence. Guitars buzz, drums boom and everything cocoons comfortably in reverb. At 18 minutes, End of Daze has no standouts and no weak spots: It’s beautiful all the way through. The spiritual heart of the EP comes from the lone cover, of 1980s Scottish pop-rock group Strawberry Switchblade’s “Trees and Flowers.” “I hate the trees and I hate the flowers,” Gundred sings over shimmering, reverberant guitars – “I hate the buildings and the way they tower over me.” With just the slightest push, the simplicity that once made them playthings gets elevated to metaphor. As a title, End of Daze might be a little joke about their own maturity: The fog lifts and leaves nothing but clarity, naked and bittersweet.