Dum Dum Girls – Live

O2 Academy Islington – 11/04/2012
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Dum Dum Girls O2 Academy IslingtonThe queens of Subpop, Dum Dum Girls, off the back of the success of their second album, ‘Only In Dreams’ play tonight at London’s O2 Academy in Islington. Arriving on stage in matching white sixties dresses they look as divine as always. Gone are the dirty leather biker jackets in lieu of something purer (thankfully, trademark fishnets and blood-red lipstick are still in check).

Kicking off with ‘He Gets Me High’, their guitars are louder than hell from the start. Dee Dee’s swagger and frantic head nods signify how ‘up for it’ they are for this. Bassist Bambi has been swapped out for newbie Malia James, and she looks like she’s always been part of the band.

The crowd is made up of possibly the oddest dynamic I’ve seen in a while. Predominantly young ‘hipster’ types, but with an alarmingly large proportion of ‘older men’ (who Dee Dee would later describe on Twitter as ‘weird dads’), who have collected around the front of the stage. Notable also is a very excitable man (Warlock?) wearing a cape, who pogoes in the crowd manically throughout the show.

Following the fury of the opening track the tempo is slowed for ‘Bedroom Eyes’ from their second record. Dum Dum’s always maintain an icy stage presence, barely moving from their mic’s, generally devoid of any emotion. It’s this drop-dead cool which provides an eerie tinge when playing something as gentle as any of their love songs. I’ve always found the slower records sound like they’re lifted from a road movie of some sort; they take on an otherness at odds with the [incredibly sentimental] lyrical content.

‘I Will Be’ from the first album gets the crowd going, and from there we delve into some of the older, more noisy tracks. Dum Dum’s always have the ability to make softer, more gentle music, and then move to almost ‘wall of sound’ proportions in a heartbeat. This contrast resonates throughout the rest of the set list, with ‘Only In Dreams‘ preceding ‘Rest Of Our Lives’.

Fans’ favourites ‘Jail La La’ and ‘Bhang Bhang, I’m a Burnout’ follow and the already excitable crowd seriously lose it. The noise these girls weld is awesome at times. They reproduce all of the dirty production laid out on the record. It sounds immense.

Dum Dum Girls O2 Academy IslingtonThe set ends with (I counted three) new tracks with no introduction. The new sound is probably more akin to their early records, but much much louder; almost bordering on My Bloody Valentine territory. My ears were literally ringing with guitar crash, and I don’t think there was a single person in the crowd without a smile on their face.

The encore consists of speeded up ‘Always Looking’, and ends with the beautiful ‘Coming Down’. They clearly want to leave us with something emotional despite their reserved stage presence. Dee Dee breaks rank for the huge vocal finale, which is literally breathtaking. You get the sense that her vocal ability has largely gone untapped until hearing her let go on this track.

I’ve seen Dum Dum’s a number of times, and they get better and better at what they do. As a live act, it’s a difficult one to follow. I really like their stage presence, which compliments the band’s image and lyrical output perfectly. After tonight’s show I’m really looking forward to hearing their new record, which sounds like their edgiest material yet. After the pop sensibilities of ‘Only In Dream’ I think they need to get back to their dirtier, lo-fi beginnings – it’s what they do best.

Dum Dum Girls were once thought of as something of a novelty act, and as a token ‘girl band’ to the Subpop roster. As always rings true at Subpop, they are quite the opposite. They’re an outstanding group of songwriters who will no doubt be around for a long time; and with a set like we saw tonight, you would take your dad along.

Set List (known tracks: not complete)

He Gets Me High
Bedroom Eyes
I Will Be
Only In Dreams
Rest of Our Lives
Jail La La
Hold Your Hand
Bhang Bhang, I’m a Burnout

Encore
Always Looking
Coming Down

Mike Conyard

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