Tales of Interest
(Rad Girlfriend Records)
Midwest royalty, The Dopamines, nearly mastered the pop-punk record with the 2010 release Expect The Worst. The title may have been the tactic—aiming to set low standards and surprise listeners with their delightfully delinquent hooks about alternate career paths. In that recording, they were working alongside Less Than Jake’s Roger Lima, so while being loose and in love with Keystone Light, the production value was through the roof. After some time away, Tales of Interest is their third full length, and recorded in their own home base. (Visit their Facebook page to catch the André Cold Duck-fueled process). The Worst is where the bar lies, so stakes are high here.
Relax, they’ve still got the chops for a tight album. It’s a warm welcome on “Kalte Ente” as muted, choppy chords ride down the neck like a David Lee Roth ode. It sounds as though you’ve stepped into your older brother’s cassette tape collection, but rest assured, this is The Dopamines, and they’re stretching out before the exercise. Deep, fluttering bass notes buzz lend a forewarning for a new direction in their sound. John Weiner’s abrasive approach on bass lends a mature sound to the album. It builds a darker reality that may come with age or their sense of time as grown men in Southern Ohio. Whatever it is, it’s compelling especially on “Common Rue.”
Track ten brings back memories, with the convenient title of “Expect The Worst.” Only in the welcome mat is it reminiscent, however, as the up/down chords and acidwave-distorted vocals sound like a new beast with a rhythm of jittery eyes on lookout. Jon Lewis sings of paranoia and anxiety, so that hasn’t changed in the past decade. The pedal effects on vocals and strewn-out pitches come through more frequently here in ways that remind me of mid-career Green Day. “Heartbeaten by the Police” being article “A” as evidence.
On “Ire,” the mid-life woes pop up in lyrics, “I can’t think of a better way, to shove it right back into your lying face. And I try to fight for the bitterness, because I never thought it would come to this. This was not supposed to be a monarchy, a hierarchy.” It’s a recurring theme. What made Expect The Worst so good was its recklessness and immediacy—two features that almost soley come out authentically in earlier years. As James Hetfield put it, “young, dumb, and full of love(?).” But you can’t live like that forever, just look at Metallica’s documentary Some Kind of Monster, even they could see the writing on the wall from the top of the cheese wheel. While Tales of Interest finds solace in band returning from sebbatical, it at times sound like a yearning for earlier days.
At fourteen tracks, Tales of Interest has too many stories and wind up losing some interest. Editing down to 11 or 12 may have held together stronger in this instance. It’s a solid output, but as mentioned, there’s a very high bar for this release. When you come to expect the best, it’s to be expected that you’ll get something less.