Talk about everything coming together. The early singles and EP that Kristin Gundred (or Dee Dee, as she now goes by) released under the Dum Dum Girls name were for the most part textbook lo-fi garage rock in keeping with the current indie craze for intimate and muddled music; hardly anything unusual, but it was strong enough to get a deal with Sub Pop Records, as well as a drummer in ex-Vivian Girl Frankie Rose. Not to mention that Richard Gottenhrer was tapped on for production duties, the man who wrote the fifties classic My Boyfriend's Back, as well as taking the helm behind the Raveonettes' (admittedly ill-fated) like-minded sophomore effort. Everything seemed poised for the Dum Dum Girls to put out a fantastic debut, and that's more or less what they've done with I Will Be.
Probably the biggest thing to make Dum Dum Girls stand out in a sea of lo-fi indie bands is the sense of melody employed. It's not just that the hooks are great (they are), but the approach taken as well. The production is largely responsible for the sixties recalling sound to the record - particularly with Gottehrer's involvement - but the music itself is largely instilled with this sensibility as well. The often sweet natured, lovelorn lyrics aside, a lot of the melodies are pure girl group pop, expressed with a punkish attitude. This comes together beautifully on tracks like Rest of Our Lives and Blank Girl, with bright, endearing hooks shining through from underneath multiple layers of skuzz, with the latter even carrying a great swing to it. Lives' chorus and Blank's bridge each evoke rich imagery as well, particularly in the latter's listing off of certain firsts, all of which come to mind fondly while listening.
Lead single Jail La La immediately grabs you with its upbeat tempo, dirty guitar lick, and charmingly detached vocals. The chorus is the real knockout, however - the echoed harmonizing hovers just a bit before blasting the song's bright melody, its energy spilling over into the next verse. Both this and Bhang Bhang, I'm a Burnout, another early standout, employ this to great effect. In fact, most of the first half is driven by a raucous energy, culminating in Jail before slowing things down a bit with a few more ballads. What's interesting is that the vocal delivery remains more or less the same with the slower tracks, but here the detachment sounds more like listlessness, and all the more genuine as a result. This listless quality is perhaps no more evident than on the closing Baby Don't Go, which makes it all the more achingly gorgeous.
Neither the musicianship nor songcraft are exactly top notch here, but to judge by those merits would be missing the point entirely. I Will Be coasts primarily on the strength of its sharp melodies and, to a lesser extent, the lo-fi, fuzzy production from the very appropriately chosen Gottehrer. Even without his contributions, the great hooks are strong enough to shine on their own, and give a soul to the songs that is far less common in other artists embracing the lo-fi garage sound. I Will Be isn't perfect, but it sees a new talent off to a great start.