Music Hall of Williamsburg
Dum Dum Girls

Dum Dum Girls

Widowspeak, Punks on Mars

Tue, February 7, 2012

Doors: 8:00 pm / Show: 9:00 pm

Music Hall of Williamsburg

Brooklyn, NY

$15

This event is 18 and over

Dum Dum Girls
Dum Dum Girls
Write about what you know. That’s what they say. But that’s a lot easier said than done when what you know is very, very difficult to bear. That was the challenge Dum Dum Girls’ leader Dee Dee faced when writing the songs for the band’s moving second album Only in Dreams. “The first record was basically the first songs I’d ever written,” says Dee Dee, “and I was thinking nostalgically about being a teenager. This record, it was pretty much impossible not to write about very recent, very real things.”

Very real things indeed: Dee Dee wrote “Hold Your Hand” immediately after her mother (the pretty lady on the cover of both the Dum Dum Girls’ self-titled 2009 debut EP and their 2010 debut album I Will Be) was diagnosed with what turned out to be a fatal illness, and it’s one of several songs on Only in Dreams that unsparingly trace her mom’s passing. Other songs spell out the emotional toll of separation from one’s lover, something Dee Dee had to deal with while she and her husband (Brandon Welchez of the acclaimed noise-pop band Crocodiles) pursued their own tour schedules.

“Just about all the songs reflect the fact that I’d been on the road for about a year, pretty much separate from everything real in my life except the band,” says Dee Dee. “A lot of it is about distance and detachment.”

On several levels, Only in Dreams is a great leap forward for a gifted songwriter and an equally gifted band—it’s heavy, deeply personal stuff and surely unprecedented for this style of music, and that’s what gives Only in Dreams both its uniqueness and its gut-punch emotional impact.

Only in Dreams retains Dum Dum Girls’ signature blend of the girl-gang eyeliner punk of the Shangri-Las, the trashy propulsion of the Cramps, and the moody atmospherics of Mazzy Star, but for the first time, all four Dum Dum Girls play and sing on the album. Now the harmonies have more depth, Jules plays her own distinctive guitar leads, and the Bambi (bass)/Sandy (drums) rhythm section powers the music like a vintage V-8 engine. Best of all, tons of time on the road—including two massively successful headlining tours—have molded Dum Dum Girls into a very formidable rock & roll band, giving the music an undeniable force.

And now that power and glory is showcased by a full-on studio production—while I Will Be was recorded at home and modestly spiffed up in a studio by legendary pop maestro Richard Gottehrer (Blondie, Go-Go’s), Only in Dreams was recorded at Josh Homme’s Pink Duck Studios, “almost a museum in terms of the old amps and guitars he’s amassed,” says Dee Dee admiringly. Gottehrer again produced, this time with Sune Rose Wagner from the Raveonettes.

Only in Dreams more than fulfills the promise of 2011’s He Gets Me High EP, with impassioned, front-and-center vocals from Dee Dee that sometimes recall one of her heroines, Chrissie Hynde; big singalong choruses draped with almost choral harmonies; a chugging wash of guitars drenched in reverb, tremelo and fuzz; and mighty, booming bass and drums. “I’ve always wanted to be in a loud rock & roll band and still maintain some feminine sound,” Dee Dee says. “So even though this album is much poppier and a lot more polished, it’s still tough.” “Heartbeat” hooks with its Buddy Holly-esque guitar line, while “In My Head” uncorks one of the album’s greatest choruses, and brace yourself for the incredibly poignant closer “Hold Your Hand.”

Listen to the slowdive ballad “Coming Down,” which Dee Dee wrote not long after her mom passed away. “That song came out of being in and out of awareness of the depth of the situation,” she says. “Sometimes when I write, I don’t really analyze what I’m saying but the more I hear that song, the deeper it feels. I don’t know if I’m addressing life or God or what, but it’s our big, epic song on every scale.”

Dee Dee wrote “Bedroom Eyes” after returning from a European tour, jet-lagged and lonely. “I was home alone,” she says. “Insomnia was taking its toll; I felt absolutely crazy. I looked up poetry on the subject and found a Dante Gabriel Rosetti poem and the song was born from that. I’d finally convinced my dad to give me one of his prescription sleeping pills and it kicked in while I was writing the song and I started hallucinating.”

Only in Dreams represents a musical evolution for Dum Dum Girls and a personal one for Dee Dee, and that’s no coincidence. “I’m for real,” she says. “We all are. I’m really passionate about this, it’s all I know. And maybe we’ve just grown up a bit—or grown out a bit. There’s some weight to what we do, and a pure intent, and I think that comes across on this album.”
Widowspeak
Widowspeak
Widowspeak remain purveyors of mood. Whether painting an image of a basement apartment with blinds closed or conjuring the sweeping openness of a desert, they’re an outfit ever preoccupied with the influence of place and the passage of time on personal experience: the way vivid memories can feel like movies or dreams.

On their newest album for Brooklyn’s Captured Tracks, Widowspeak use familiar aesthetics as a narrative device, a purposeful nostalgic backdrop for songs that ask, “How did we get here?” Sonically, they exist somewhere in the overlap between somber indie rock, dream pop, slow-core and their own invented genre, “cowboy grunge.” At the heart of the band, there is a palpable duality, a push and pull between the delicate and the deliberate: the contrast of lead singer-songwriter Molly Hamilton’s strikingly beautiful voice and poignant melodies with the terrestrial reality of being a four-piece rock band. These songs sound like the dark bars and rock clubs they were imagined for just as much as the bedrooms where they were written. Expect the Best sees Widowspeak finding their greatest balance between opposing forces: darkness and light, quiet and loud, tension and calm.

The album was written while Hamilton was living in Tacoma, Washington after previous stints in upstate New York and Brooklyn. So much moving around, and specifically a move back to the place she grew up, was the catalyst for a record concerned with self-examination and the sense of dread that comes from feeling adrift (“Dog”). Whether navigating the anxieties of social media and self-preservation in the digital age (“Expect the Best”), struggling to maintain motivation (“When I Tried”), or critiquing western-centric wanderlust and aspiration (“The Dream”), the songs here recognize that there’s no going back in time. Hamilton’s lyrics explore the space between regret and anticipation, reconciling the desire to dwell with a need to “expect the best,” even as the best seems unlikely.

“In the past I’ve felt compelled to write songs that are more optimistic than I’m actually feeling, as if I could make it true, as if everything in the past was significant or beautiful in a way, even if it was painful. But the truth is that not everything makes sense, and not every day of your life is an experience of clear cut emotional clarity,” says Hamilton. “I struggle with this compulsion to pull away from people, pull away from the things I enjoy doing, and sometimes literally picking up and moving away when I am feeling uneasy and anxious about my future in a given space, physical or mental. Social media these days can exacerbate that as well.”

Although Widowspeak’s last two records — Almanac (2013) and All Yours (2015) — were conceived as a duo with lead guitarist Robert Earl Thomas, Expect the Best finds them playing to the specific strengths of the current touring incarnation (James Jano on drums, Willy Muse on bass). The album, recorded by Kevin MacMahon (Swans, Real Estate), exhibits a marked increase in energy that reflects the band’s live show and the organic way it was created: by four people in a room together. The band collectively navigate dynamic changes with subtlety and restraint; the nine tracks here reach highs of wide-eyed lushness and plumb the depths of resigned melancholy. Their usual palette of dusty guitars and angular twang are still here front and center, but now with a bit more 90s homage, even if abstractly. The Pacific Northwest influences creep in throughout, as do varying flavors of New York’s legacy, the city the band still partially calls home. It’s their heaviest record to date, but never loses the sense of quiet intimacy that Widowspeak is known for.
Venue Information:
Music Hall of Williamsburg
66 North 6th St
Brooklyn, NY, 11249
http://www.musichallofwilliamsburg.com/