Tuesday, 18 February 2014
reviews: Dum Dum Girls, Peggy Sue, Nina Persson
Dum Dum Girls - Too True (***)
Diversifying her tried-and-tested sound with mixed results, Dee Dee’s third Dum Dum Girls album updates the project’s key reference points by a couple of decades. The fuzzed-up 60s girl group style is still discernable in the cinematic allure of Evil Blooms and Cult of Love’s surf twang, but other elements have wound on considerably from debut I Will Be, taking things in a cleaner, shinier pop direction.
The commercial aspirations implied by the chart starlet cover art (not to mention the slick H&M-produced promo for Lost Boys and Girls Club) finds sonic realisation in the album’s de rigeur 80s influences, with Rimbaud Eyes ripped straight from Tango in the Night and echoes of Benatar torch-songs, Siouxie-esque dark drama and a soupcon of Cocteau Twins all hovering in the margins. Unfortunately, it’s often too slick to stick (Are You Okay, in particular, has an undesirable Corrs-ish quality), preventing Too True from quite matching up to its predecessors.
Peggy Sue - Choir of Echoes (***)
Poise, harmony, dexterity: three connotations of Choir of Echoes’ kaleidoscopic Busby Berkeley-quoting artwork that are equally applicable to the songs within. On their third album, alt-folk trio Peggy Sue have gracefully raised their game another notch after the promising developments of 2011’s horizon-broadening Acrobats, revisiting existing metiers and cultivating new ones.
In places, it deepens their noir-ish edge, with the narrator of bluesy lead single Idle joining Robert Johnson in his Faustian pact and Electric Light’s uncanny doo-wop stoking the atmosphere and showing off the band’s vocal prowess (whilst also recollecting 2012’s reimagined Scorpio Rising covers collection). But elsewhere there’s a brighter tone – a contrast nicely encapsulated in album highlight Always Going, which lays ringing, distorted guitars across a light and breezy beat. Not every track is as characterful, but shrewd production keeps things buoyant through the few lulls, ensuring attentions never wander far from its central qualities.
Nina Persson - Animal Heart (**)
With A Camp having last borne fruit in 2009 and The Cardigans’ recording hiatus ongoing, Nina Persson’s debut solo record qualifies as something of a comeback: the first sign of her dulcet voice in half a decade, guest appearances notwithstanding. Her vocal performances remain disarmingly superb, with a seductive huskiness having crept in somewhere in the interim to add depth to her erstwhile carefree croon. But a singer’s nothing without a song worthy of their talents, and in this regard, Persson’s return falls short.
Throughout, Animal Heart plays things dispiritingly safe, with tasteful-but-tepid arrangements and blandly accomplished songwriting that tries on a range of hats (mild electro-pop on the title track; Disney Princess ballad on Dreaming of Houses; country lament on The Grand Destruction Game), none of which really fit. Here’s hoping that, whichever one of her outlets it comes from, Persson’s next outing furnishes her with material more befitting her vocal abilities.