In another life, another era, Dee Dee Penny would have fronted a famous band like the Shangri-Las or the Smiths or any group that had a mastermind who wrote instantly catchy melodies with hooks sharp as knives. She has a keen eye for classic pop songcraft, right down to circular choruses that tangle up in your head like taffy. And they’re just as sweet.
As it is, Penny, who has the less rock ’n’ roll name of Kristin Welchez, is the leader of Dum Dum Girls, a modern girl group that filters her influences — everyone from Sonny & Cher to the Ramones — through a contemporary lens. The Dum Dums appeared in a haze of lo-fi distortion on their 2010 debut, “I Will Be,” and since then Penny has buffed their aesthetic to a luster.
Working again with producers Richard Gottehrer (an architect of girl-group pop who co-wrote “My Boyfriend’s Back”) and the Raveonettes’ Sune Rose Wagner, Penny steps into the light on “Too True.” Sleek and sophisticated, this third full-length careens from muscular blasts of ’80s guitar rock (“In the Wake of You”) to spectral ballads (“Are You Okay?”). Penny writes hits even if they never become that. Songs like “Too True to Be Good” and “Rimbaud Eyes” are meant to be blared from car radios with the windows down; they’re perfect.
Longtime fans might grumble that the Dum Dums are too refined here, but that would be missing the point: You want to hear Penny and those candy-coated melodies in surround sound. (Out Tuesday)
ESSENTIAL “Rimbaud Eyes”
Dum Dum Girls play at Brighton Music Hall on March 27.