Kristin Kontrol is the latest incarnation of Dee Dee—aka Kristin Welchez—of Dum Dum Girls. Her current identity recalls the decade of excess: the budding goth clubs, synthesizer-heavy songs, and eyeliner that teeters between punk rock and art project. Her voice echoes the best female icons of the ‘80s. Think the silverly sounds of Terri Nunn, the melodic darkness of Siouxsie, and the etherealness high pitches of Kate Bush.
Kontrol doesn’t stray far from Dee Dee. Dum Dum Girls weren’t afraid to thread synth-layers between their actual instruments. X-Communicate’s pacing existed in Dum Dum Girls’ “Coming Down.”
Each song on this new album is worth listening to, but there are still some special gems. Like the title song, “X-Communicate.” In this song, Kontrol displays her vast octaves range while simultaneously churning out the best in danceable beats. You’ll be singing it for days. “What is Love” is jarring in the best way—throwing listeners off with a piano intro that bleeds into the album’s electronic sound, only faint keys left behind. Other instruments creep in throughout the song, luring in hardcore Dum Dum Girl fans. “Face 2 Face” follows “What is Love.” Siouxsie had her own “Face to Face”— a song most known as the background of a famous scene in Batman Returns. Kontrol’s “Face 2 Face” is more pop, more Baz Luhrmann than Tim Burton, and sounds closer to songs from Berlin’s Pleasure Victim than anything from the Creatures or the Banshees. “Show Me” incorporates horn sounds into its dark wave styled sounds—without her signature vocals, this sound could almost be early INXS or New Order. That holds true for most of this album. Remove the vocals and you swear you’re listening to your favorite goth/new wave/synth-pop/dark wave band from the Reagan-era. What makes it modern? You don’t hear many tinny slaps that permeated almost every new wave song in the actual 1980s.
Want more time-hopping? Sub-Pop released X-Communicate—yes, the legendary label of Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, and every other Singles era band. Since they’re also Dum Dum Girls’ label, it shouldn’t be that surprising—still, Kontrol feared they would cringe or be apprehensive with her latest effort. Sub-Pop, like Kontrol, embraces diversity and change. Music should never be restrained.