Top Ten: The Dopamines songs

Posted: July 25, 2017 in Reviews

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I’ve been a fan of this band since the beginning and basically loved them from the get-go. I remember getting home and unwrapping the S/T album (way back in 2008) to review for Punk or Nothing (yeah, that) and having little to no expectations. The first two songs (“The Satisfaction of Physical Retraction from a Chemical Reaction Attraction” and “Molly”) hit me straight away and I was hooked into a world of getting DUIs, rolling smokes with your degrees and bad cases of ‘cupidity’. It was fucking wonderful. Everything that has followed since I’ve loved too, which is pretty rare for me. Usually a band will tail off for me after a while, or there will at least be ups and downs, but, nope, despite the evolution in their sound and style, I’ve continually been super into all The Dopamines releases. However, it would be incredibly difficult to rank them or something. I wouldn’t know what to say if somebody asked what my favourite Dopamines release was? I love them all in their own way. I guess maybe the new one (Tales of Interest) represents the best whole ‘package’, but I still find myself coming back to the older stuff, too. So, I thought the next best thing to ranking shit was just to outline what I thought were my ten favourite Dopamines songs, in chronological order, rather than in order of preference (coz, fuck that)…

  1. “Molly” (2008, S/T)

A pretty much straightforward catchy, 2-min, pop-punk tale-of-woe. This is about the sheer disbelief, shock and grief felt when a pet dies as a kid (a dog named Molly). This introduced the Dopamines as king of the scrappy, fast-paced and amateurish end of the pop-punk spectrum. And I love that little cute guitar solo before the final chorus.

  1. “Dan Teet Runs a Marathon” (2008, S/T)

This has always been one of my favourites from the self-titled. It’s a proper shout-y one that I would go mad for if I ever see The Dopas live on these shores. “Dan Teet…” is such a teenage song, full of melodrama (“I’m falling down the stairs and I don’t even care/ Not even thinking twice about my poor health care”) and an amateur-ishly constructed chorus (“So sick of inspire-ation from expectations”). But it just works so well. Plus, I was a teenager when this came out, so it totally made sense to me.

  1. “Soap and Lampshades” (2009, ‘Soap and Lampshades’ EP)

The Soap and Lampshades EP evidenced a slight change in sound for the band, moving towards a grittier and more visceral form of pop-punk. The title track is clearly the highlight of the EP. It’s pretty mid-tempo and was probably their best-constructed song by this point. Jon Lewis (The Dopamines’ lead singer) recently said on the Anxious and Angry podcast that this is probably his favourite thing they have done. The lyrical content was pretty fucking far removed from anything The Dopamines have done before or since: about those who died in concentration camps in WW2 becoming soap and lampshades.

  1. “Public Domain” (2010, Expect the Worst)

The second LP Expect the Worst clearly offered a more clean-cut, less amateur-ish pop-punk sound, but with the Dopamines’ charm and energy retained. “Public Domain” is the ‘hit’ from the record, I guess, full of ‘woah-ohs’ and a catchy chorus. The repeated lyrics towards the end of the song also act to underpin the whole record and, to an extent, the whole ethos of the band: “I trust that you expect the worst from us”. The band’s attitude has always been: this is us, we aren’t the best, and, if you don’t like it, then you can fuck right off.

  1. “Monroe”/”Glendora” (2010, Expect the Worst)

Yeah, I’m putting two songs together; so what? These two definitely go together, thematically and musically. Plus, the end of “Monroe” actually rolls into “Glendora”. These are the two quintessential ‘party songs’ from The Dopamines, relaying tales of two separate punk houses and the crazy shit that went down there. These are dirty, frenetic and urgent punk hits. The two songs together clock in at under two mins, but they manage to pack in a lot during that time. The following line sums up the bands attitude on this record: “I’ll never forget the nights that I spent here, but then again, I might not remember

  1. “Don’t Mosh the Organ” (2012, Vices)

It has been said that Vices is the ‘morning after’, the post-party blues record, and, in some ways, that is accurate, but there is a lot more going on than simply that, as “Don’t Mosh the Organ” demonstrated. For me, this song is about the dangers involved in blindly following others’ advice and in worrying about meeting others’ expectations. Lyrically, it’s fascinating. The chorus is fucking awesome (“it’s not the road you’re standing on/it’s the miles that you put on”) and I love the way song keeps flitting between fast-paced and slow-paced, particularly when the music completely fades out towards the end and then fades back in.

  1. “Paid in Full” (2012, Vices)

Immediately following “Don’t Mosh the Organ” is “Paid in Full”, an emotive, heartfelt song with a killer chorus. They tried to slow things down on the verses on this one, making the chorus that bit more effective. For me, these two songs stood out the most in comparison to the Dopamines’ older stuff; there was a definite sense here that the band were keen to explore new song structures and melodies and weren’t content to stick to their tried-and-trusted formulae. The lyrics on “Paid in Full” hit hard. The Dopamines explore that feeling of freedom that can come with being broke and unemployed, in similar ways that The Copyrights and Banner Pilot have in the past: “With our pockets turned inside out, lets kick in this door and figure this world out”

  1. “Business Papers” (2012, ‘The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore’ Comp./2017, Tales of Interest)

This was later re-recorded for the newest LP, Tales of Interest, but “Business Papers” originally came out on the ‘The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore’ compilation, which former Lookout! records owner Larry Livermore (obviously) put together, to highlight the brightest and best of the pop-punk underground at that time. This was the most ‘out there’ thing that The Dopamines had done at that point: it’s deranged, desperate and wild. It’s also pretty heavy, compared to their previous stuff, totally fitting in on the new record. Jon’s growly vocals totally sell it. The breakdown at the end absolutely kills it: “You did everything wrong and you’ll never belong, wherever you go…”.

  1. “Ire” (2017, Tales of Interest)

In some ways, a straight-forward punk song, but I think “Ire” best combines the melodies of the Dopamines-of-old, with the grittiness, griminess and heaviness of the current Dopamines sound. I label this: ‘dirty pop-punk’. It would fit in well with The Transgressions, if they did songs that were longer than a minute. “Ire” is a tale of getting revenge on someone who has wronged you, in spite of the consequences. This is all laid out in Jon’s gravelly bark: “it’s true what they say, revenge feels pretty sweet”.

  1. “Heartbeaten by the Police” (2017, Tales of Interest)

A cover of The High Hats, “Heartbeaten by the Police” is something that is pretty far removed from anything The Dopamines have previously done. It’s ‘garage-pop-punk’ at its finest. It’s frenetic and heart-on-sleeve stuff that, while completely standing out, also manages to fill it in with the intensity of the rest of Tales of Interest. It really made me want to check out The High Hats more. I particularly love the line: “I need my Hazel every night/ I need my haze to feel alright”. I now want to hear more Dopamines stuff played at this pace and intensity!

Check The Dopamines out here…https://radgirlfriendrecords.bandcamp.com/album/tales-of-interest

DB

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