Review: The Dopamines- Tales of Interest (Rad Girlfriend)

Posted: May 27, 2017 in Reviews

After a hiatus of sorts, The Dopamines are back with their fourth full-length Tales of Interest (the title is Futurama-inspired for the uninitiated). Following 2012’s Vices, this is a similarly gritty, heart-on-sleeve and Goddamn dirty take on pop-punk. If you have already heard “Business Papers” off the Larry Livermore compilation, you’ll have a decent idea of what the band are going for here. Nevertheless, The Dopamines have got noticeably heavier on the new record. There are actual hardcore breakdowns on display here. The guitars are crunchier and the recording is rawer than ever. The Dopamines have never really had a ‘clean’ sound (although the closest would be Expect the Worst), but Tales of Interest was recorded in just four (beer-soaked) days and it feels like it. They have totally perfected that tight, live-in-a-punk-basement sound, like some of the classic Lookout! pop-punk albums from the early-mid ‘90s did.

To say the vocals are aggressive on Tales of Interest is a massive understatement. Lead singer Jon growls and barks his way through the album, spitting out the home truths in disgust. At the same time, The Dopamines’ melodies are stronger and tighter than ever. It’s like everything (catchiness, tempo, aggressiveness, heaviness) has just gone up several notches. The pop-punk on Tales of Interest is not really ‘gruff’ but rather, in-your-face, raw, aggressive, yet hook-laden pop-punk. There are certainly hints of Dillinger Four in there, but Dear Landlord come to mind, too. I don’t think the modern Dopamines sound anything like The Copyrights who they are often compared to (and never really did to be honest). I guess this is the furthest the bands have strayed from the ‘pop’ in ‘pop-punk’.

To me, The Dopas are totally doing their own thing on Tales of Interest, and it’s certainly difficult to think of other modern pop-punk bands which have such dynamism and variety over the length of a record, while simultaneously tying everything together. You have got the raw, gritty, more straight-forward pop-punk of “Ire” and “Common Rue”;  the super-fast melodic hardcore of “Kaltes Ende” (linking to the instrumental opener, “Kalte Ende” which is apparently the name for a sparkling wine in the States); the intense, yet catchy-as-fuck “Heartbeaten by the police” (a cover of the High Hats); or the faster, grittier re-recording of “Douglas Bubbletrousers” (off their split with Dear Landlord), re-titled here “Expect the Worst”. I guess “Business Papers (Reprise)” is the most interesting, starting with far-off, quiet and distorted vocals over a slow-strumming guitar, before suddenly and dramatically bursting into life with hardcore-punk urgency.

I’ve been a big fan of The Dopamines since the beginning, basically and they released their self-titled debut LP on It’s Alive Records back in 2008, and it’s been great to hear the band’s songwriting develop on each subsequent release. They have always been a bitter, self-deprecating and cynical band and that is maxed out on Tales of Interest, notably with their frequent thirst for revenge, as on the chorus of “Ire”: “I can’t think of a better way to spit it right back in your lying face”. There is a sense of desperation on the record, often linked with addiction of some kind, as there was on Vices. I know it’s a cover, but “Heartbeaten by the police” has a great couple of lines which captures this feeling: “I need my Hazel every night/ I need my haze to feel alright”. The lyrics are generally mature and somewhat deeper than on previous releases. There is also a personal, somewhat confessional tone to many of the lyrics on Tales of Interest: “And I assure you that I’m still the same/ I just got sucked into a world that took a hold of me”.

Jon Lewis said on the Anxious and Angry podcast (which is fantastic, by the way) that “Tales of Interest” was the album he had always wanted to make with The Dopamines, and you can totally see why: it’s a complete, cohesive yet varied, one body of work that takes the best elements of their previous records and enhances them to full effect.

Listen to “Ire” and “Common Rue” here: https://radgirlfriendrecords.bandcamp.com/album/tales-of-interest

DB

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