On their 2011 album, Only in Dreams, the Dum Dum Girls took a major step forward in their development as a band, deepening their sound and moving beyond the polished stylistic sheen that had largely characterized their earlier work. However, the power of the album was largely rooted in lead singer Dee Dee’s experiences coping with the death of her grandmother and long, tour related separations from her husband (Brandon Welchez of Crocodiles). Due to the singular nature of these experiences, it was unclear at the time whether Dreams would represent the beginning of an ongoing stylistic evolution for the Girls, or wind up as an inspired aberration.
Fortunately, the new EP puts those concerns to rest as it builds on the more nuanced arrangements and personal themes introduced in Only in Dreams while providing a degree of closure missing from that earlier effort. Dreams ended with the heartbreaking “Hold Your Hand,” a song that explicitly describes the helplessness of watching a loved one pass away. Indeed, the last words sung by Dee Dee on the album were “But there’s nothing I can do/But hold your hand/til the very end/til the very end.” In many ways, End of Daze can be seen as the natural conclusion to Dreams (The title itself indicates as much), cauterizing the ragged emotional wounds laid bare on that LP and pointing the way to a (hopefully) brighter future.
The first two tracks, “Mine Tonight” and “I Got Nothing” were recorded immediately after the Dreams sessions and, had they been included in that earlier work, they would have been among the album’s strongest tracks. Both songs find Dee mining the same emotional terrain but with an even greater depth, emphasizing her heartrending vocals and existential lyrics over dark, post-punk inflected riffs. On “Lord Knows” (the first of two tracks recorded in 2012), for the first time Dee Dee appears to be moving forward, even if she still seems to be obsessing on some vicious memories as she croons “Oh boy/I just can’t hurt you anymore.”
The only minor misstep on Daze is the dirge-like cover of Strawberry Switchblade’s “Trees and Flowers.” It is by no means a poor interpretation of the material but it interrupts the emotional and sonic flow of the album, coming off as inessential filler rather than an integral component of the whole.
Fittingly, the last song, “A Season in Hell,” finds Dee Dee firmly looking towards the future with some degree of optimism, even as she deals with her ongoing emotional pain. When she sings “A season in hell / But doesn’t the dawn look divine? / Lift your gaze / It’s the end of daze” to close the album, it is clear that she has finally found a measure of peace with the recent events that have shaped her life.
It is often said that great art is birthed from great tragedy and in this case, as in so many others, the aphorism certainly proved true. It will be interesting to see in what direction Dee Dee chooses to take the band and how the myriad improvements of Dreams and Daze will be applied to less tragic subject matter. Regardless, the future looks brighter for Dee Dee and her band than it has for years.