Welcome to The Verge: a column dedicated to music on the edge of a breakthrough. After a look at the beginnings of another British Invasion, it’s time to return stateside for some female-fronted indie rock.
Seemingly appearing out of nowhere, the Dum Dum Girls signed to indie stalwart Sub Pop last year on the strength of a couple lo-fi EPs and literally one live performance. What started as a solo project by Kristin Gundred (aka Dee Dee) grew into an all-girl rock band that harks back to 60s girl groups, both in sound and style. Gundred had previously found success as a singer/drummer with garage rockers Grand Ole Party.
The Dum Dum Girls play jangly, fuzzed-out indie pop that makes audiences want to do The Monkey and The Swim. Their wall-of-sound is as much Phil Spector as it is Black Tambourine, the short-lived yet influential DC band that played in similar sonic territory in the early 90s. The lead single off of their debut LP I Will Be, “Jail La La,” is a sing-a-long headbopper which tells the grim tale of waking up in the county jail.
Visually, the band is all-black and throwback, swaying like dashboard hula dancers. The retro feel is completed with Danelectro and Rickenbacker gear that firmly plants the Dum Dum Girls in a distant time and place. It is a bit gimmicky, but it flows naturally from their name and completes the live experience, as it did at a recent DC9 gig, opening for Male Bonding.
Screaming Females may share a nominal theme with the Dum Dum Girls, but that’s where the similarities end. The Screaming Females play pure rock: aggressive, guitar-driven, ear-bleeding rock music. Here, the screaming female is actually singular: Marissa Paternoster, on lead vocals and guitars, screeches and shreds with reckless abandon. The band muscles their way through hard rock history, from the Sabbath-inspired sludge of “Skull” to the proto-punk of “I Believe in Evil.” “Buried in the Nude” gives you a taste of the cacophonous attack that the Females unleash, along with the band’s psychedelic sensibility.
Coming out of the New Brunswick, New Jersey basement scene, the band is a DIY tribute to rock bands past. With a full, heavy sound that overwhelmed the 9:30 Club when opening for Ted Leo last week, I can only imagine the damage the band did to young punks and metalheads in basements across the Garden State.
Next time the Dum Dum Girls and the Screaming Females come to town, they’ll be headlining. It may not be a movement a la riot grrrl, but the music they make certainly rocks. And once you get past gender issues and expectations, isn’t that what really matters?