Pillbox

Jangle-pop takes over Mr. Small’s

Dee Dee, creative composer and lead singer of the Dum Dum Girls, belts out vocal harmonies.  (credit: Collin Burger | Photo Staff) Dee Dee, creative composer and lead singer of the Dum Dum Girls, belts out vocal harmonies. (credit: Collin Burger | Photo Staff)

To an unprepared passerby, the marquee of Mr. Small’s Theatre & Funhouse might have suggested that the venue was hosting some sort of twisted feminist convention when, last Monday evening, Millvale played host to two spectacular bands — Girls and the Dum Dum Girls.

Girls, an indie rock group from San Francisco, was thrown into fame when the band’s debut album, Album, was rated as the 10th best album of 2009 by the popular music critique website Pitchfork Media. Often described as the shoegaze jangle-pop rebirth of the Beach Boys, Girls is currently signed with Matador Records and working on content for their sophomore release.

With all the hype that has been surrounding Girls in the 2009–2010 year, one wouldn’t expect the group to be so easily upstaged by it’s opening act. The current members of the Dum Dum Girls, originally formed by front woman Kristin Gundred (stage name Dee Dee) in 2008 as a solo project, came together to record their debut full-length album I Will Be, released March 30.

As the Dum Dum Girls are often criticized for the monotony of their lo-fi “blissed-out buzz saw” sound, those involved in the production of I Will Be intended to increase the likability of their sound while maintaining the genius of Dee Dee’s songwriting and without compromising her creative voice. Producer Richard Gottehrer, who has worked with revolutionary girl bands like Blondie, the Go-Go’s, and just recently the Ravonettes, successfully managed to do just that.

Those who chose to show up for the opening act last Monday were blown away by the spectacular sound. Lo-fi distortion took a second hand to Dee Dee’s incredible vocals, and the set list flowed easily from start to finish. After this incredible and unexpected performance, the audience was no doubt eager to see if the headliner, Girls, could top it.

Sadly, Girls didn’t quite earn the pedestal they had been placed on. It wasn’t that Girls played a particularly bad show; but bluntly put, they didn’t blow listeners away. They began the show with a slow and calming song and maintained this relaxed ambiance throughout their set. While the band did incorporate some random spurts of loud and heavy distortion within the set list, nothing about their performance was markedly high-energy. Those expecting to experience the fun and fattening feel of songs like “Lust for Life” and “Morning Light” would have been disappointed with the band’s live rendition.

Although the show may have failed to meet the expectations of those audience members prepared to hear the “10th best album of 2009,” it was still a set packed with talent. Lead singer/guitarist Christopher Owens did a spectacular job on vocals, and the songs themselves maintained that psychedelic quality that initially made the band’s debut album so popular.

While the set Girls played live seemed to be vastly different from the tracks on their album, the show was definitely enjoyable and worth watching. Be sure to catch Girls and the Dum Dum Girls on their U.S. tour, or the next time they visit Pittsburgh.