Previous to this, Dum Dum Girls’ second full-length after myriad singles, EPs and comps, it was a little too easy to group the California foursome in with the unwashed masses of the fuzzy-guitared, gloomy, lo-fi set. This year’s He Gets Me High EP hinted at a cleaned-up sound, but Only in Dreams runs with it, making good on a decidedly satisfying promise.
Vocalist/guitarist Dee Dee Penny’s pipes are so stunningly dominant — think halcyon-era Chrissie Hynde — that it makes sense that they’re not obfuscated by noise, but instead brought to the front leading all three other Dum Dums on harmonies to boot. Meanwhile, thanks to the production work of a notorious Jesus (and Mary Chain)-worshipper, Sune Rose Wagner of the Raveonettes (along with Richard Gottehrer), the band sounds positively huge. It’s a good look on them, that, when paired with their usual catchiness, feels like a child suddenly discovering a misplaced Christmas gift.
Also surprisingly counterintuitive is how upbeat these songs — which were inspired by Dee Dee’s mother’s passing, her time away from husband Brandon Welchez of Crocodiles, etc. — sound in comparison to the band’s oft-ominous catalogue. “You can tell me time will heal/ but you don’t know the way I feel,” Dee Dee sings on “Caught in One,” later adding, “I just wanna have fun.” It’s nice to know that, but nicer still to hear it.