Dum Dum Girls at the Casbah, 07/02/10.
Crocodiles' set was predictably well received. Their amorphous compositions and washed-out guitars were hipster catnip, and the crowd swooned to singer Brandon Welchez's reverb-drenched vocals. Little things like melodies and notes were unrecognizable amid the sludge of fuzz and echo, but the crowd didn't mind a bit. The band could have played the same song 10 times in a row -- actually, they may have done just that -- and it wouldn't have made a difference. Crocodiles were selling an aesthetic, and details like the music were secondary.
The band's appeal may actually be more closely linked to cinema than music. You know that scene in movies where the protagonist attends a concert or house party, and a cool, preferably Joy Division-esque band is playing? You catch a glimpse of the leather-clad band, hear a few notes, and then, having served its purpose, the music fades into the background so the plot can resume. Crocodiles' detached sound was like that: conveniently pre-faded, lending the night a requisite air of coolness and allowing each attendee to feel like the protagonist in his own hip movie.
Headlining act Dum Dum Girls also relied heavily on image. With their black eyeliner, tattoos and leather-over-lingerie wardrobes, the all-female band looked like the Shangri-Las if they got jobs in the red light district.
Dum Dum Girls' links to '60s pop didn't end with their appearance. They adorned the ringing minor chords of the opening song "Play With Fire" -- an all but unrecognizable cover of the Rolling Stones classic -- with deceptively sweet, three-part harmonies. The band's choirlike, pitch-perfect vocals were its greatest strength, and the dreamy vocals served as an interesting counterpoint to the garbled guitars.
"Hey Sis" was propelled by Sandra Vu's rag-doll, tom-heavy drumming and the Argento leads from one-named guitarist Jules. The band never strayed from the comfort of safe, three-chord punk progressions, recycling the same I-IV-V riffs throughout the set. Despite being duct-taped together by an abundance of "na na na" lyrics, the obligatory verses, choruses and bridges lacked cohesion. You could have mixed and matched the pieces from any song, and they would have gone together just as well.
Singer Dee Dee imbued the beach pop with Siouxsie-style attitude, her voice echoing into infinity on the steamy "It Only Takes One Night." Her vocals didn't fare so well on other songs, such as when the muddy cacophony of "Bhang Bhang, I'm a Burnout" drowned out what should have been a pronounced melody.
As the short set raced to the finish line, the music's fogginess became more apparent. The group's fetching stage presence couldn't compensate for the toneless fuzz of the guitars or the general lack of substance. Dum Dum Girls and Crocodiles may be burning bright at the moment, but it will take more than just leather jackets and distortion pedals if either band wants to become more than a flash in the pan.