Music reviews for Jan. 30, 2014

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Gazette wire services
Thursday, January 30, 2014

Dum Dum Girls, "Too True"

Dum Dum Girls mastermind Dee Dee Penny made a splash with a very specific sound-reviving '60s girl- group simplicity by combining it with guitar-driven indie rock.

But that all changes on "Too True," as Penny's interests move into the '80s. To stand up to the beefed-up production, her songs have gotten deeper and stronger. Her voice, which gave out from overuse at the beginning of the album's recording sessions, returned bigger and better as well.

With the help of producers Richard Gottehrer, who led both Blondie and The Go-Go's to success, and Sune Rose Wagner of The Raveonettes, the Dum Dum Girls conjure all sorts of '80s-drenched backdrops to suit Penny's songs, especially in "Rimbaud Eyes," which comes on like The Cult fronted by Siouxsie Sioux.

The bolder musical canvas suits Penny, moving the Dum Dum Girls from more or less a novelty into a definite creative force that cobbles something new out of a wide range of influences.

-Glenn Gamboa, Newsday

Red Dragon Cartel, "Red Dragon Cartel"

Red Dragon Cartel's Jake E. Lee is one of the mysteries of rock. A guitar virtuoso from the '80s, with his group Badlands and as part of Ozzy Osbourne's backing band, Lee has been under the radar for the past decade or so. But with "Red Dragon Cartel," he returns with a memorable batch of songs that showcase his talent. Though his regular band is good, he shines brightest on "Feeder," which features Cheap Trick's Robin Zander on vocals, and "Big Mouth," where Maria Brink makes a bold, sneering guest appearance. Welcome back, Jake E., it's been too long.

-Glenn Gamboa, Newsday

The Autumn Defense, "Fifth"

When not rocking out with Wilco, multi-instrumentalists John Stirratt and Patrick Sansone dish out smooth '70s-sounding pop as the Autumn Defense. Their latest and fifth release, the appropriately titled "Fifth," comes four years after their last effort.

The wait was worth it.

The Autumn Defense is all about melodic hooks and harmonies. Fans looking for some of the rougher musical edges that Wilco dives into will be disappointed. The approach is clearly on display with the opening track, "None of This Will Matter," a song so easy on the ears it feels like a warm auditory hug.

Stirratt and Sansone find a groove and stick with it through all 12 tracks. That consistency can be either monotonous or entrancing, and sometimes both at the same time.

The songs' lyrics touch on feelings of melancholy, longing, sadness, love and depression. It's a broad spectrum, all tied together under the rich musical tapestry created by Stirratt and Sansone.

Watch out, Wilco. The Autumn Defense is on the offensive, albeit in a very mellow way.

-Scott Bauer, Associated Press

Last updated: 8:27 am Friday, January 31, 2014

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