The Black Cat hosted two female-fronted bands well worth an evening of listening on a sold-out Saturday night.
Blouse, a synthpop trio from Portland, Ore., recently traded their keyboards for guitars on their second album, Imperium. They opened for the Dum Dum Girls, the increasingly popular quartet from Los Angeles celebrating a third full-length release with Too True. This music reporter was pretty happy with both bands overall thanks to the shades of 80s post-punk that shown through in the music of their two sets.
Given my predilections, you’ll have to excuse me — when I first heard Blouse, I absolutely was hooked by their first album, and it’s been difficult for me to fairly judge their second by the standard that it set. I took notes during the show only to find myself scribbling praise for the songs from the band’s first self-titled album from 2011.
For example, early in their set, the band played “They Always Fly Away,” a repetitive but dreamy song with a slowly rumbling, haunting chorus, sang as more of a matter of fact due to the sweet lilt of Charlie Hilton’s voice. It soars in part thanks to steady drums and airy synths that manage to paint a sweet if sad picture of departure in a lovely minimalist manner.
Blouse closed their set with two of their best songs. The band played “Into Black” with a laser focus that showcased Patrick Adams’ bass as he accompanied Hilton’s guitar. Another song referencing departures and farewells, “Into Black” has echoes of songs like “A Forest” by The Cure. It’s remarkably good, and a testament to the skill of the entire band.
For their last song, Blouse closed on “Videotapes,” a lush retro-sounding selection that explores the memory of lost love. It’s slightly more chirpy but no less dreamy, and again reminds me of how terrific their first album is.
The Dum Dum Girls opened with the very New York “Bedroom Eyes,” recalling the rock and roll days of Blondie and The Ramones. A recollection of sleepless nights dreaming of another, “Bedroom Eyes” introduces the audience right away to strong guitar and vocals from Dee Dee and Jules, bass from Malia and drums from Sandy.
Some of the other highpoints of the set occur in the middle, where the Dum Dum Girls bust out early track, “I Will Be,” a fast, punky short promise of love that again makes me think of The Ramones. They followed that with the rollicking “It Only Takes One Night,” a song about the fear of losing someone that features an energizing cacophony of guitar, perfect for dancing or thrashing in place. Also from the first Dum Dum Girls LP, the song showcases the same mix of garage pop and 60s nostalgia that marked the band’s early work.
Lest we forget, the Dum Dum Girls played tracks from their new album as well, demonstrating a fantastic cohesiveness marked by a musical progression from fast, reverberating guitars to something a bit more surf glam. Songs like “Rimbaud Eyes,” an ode to 19th-century French poet Arthur Rimbaud, have drawn well-founded comparisons to Siouxsie and the Banshees while remaining entrenched in the guitar-driven mold of other songs written by Dee Dee Penny.
The Dum Dum Girls tour with Blouse for two dates in New York City starting tonight and then continue their tour across the country until Coachella in mid-April. (Blouse apparently won’t be at Coachella, sadly!) So you have some opportunities these two well-matched bands in very good form. Don’t miss out!