The Dopamines first caught my attention when they released a 7” that pays homage to the Big Black Songs About Fucking cover. Sure, they sound nothing like the seminal Chicago band, but anyone who gives props to that record ends up on my radar in some form. Moving forward to 2010, the Cincinnati band has signed with Paper & Plastick Records and released their second full-length Expect the Worst. The band’s sound is easy enough to identify: Take one part Descendents and one part Dear Landlord and you’ve got the formula. It’s not re-inventing anything musically—it’s just doing it extremely well.
What is striking about the Dopamines is the integrity and emotion that drives their songs. “My life’s not in a bank/gaining interest, losing interest/it’s in the van, in this can,” Jon Weiner sings in “June 4th.” Similarly, songs about friendship and drinking (and drinking again) fill much of the thematic content with a bit of playfulness to the tone. By the time of the “I’ll never buy 30 Keystone Lights again” lyric in “June 4th,” it’s already clear that the band has already violated this rule. Their sound is defined by simple chord progressions, occasional vocal tradeoffs, and a heavy dose of harmonies. Weiner is the primary voice, but the rest of the band gets involved frequently, often filling in the last line of refrain and adding an anthemic quality.
Standouts include “Cincinnati Harmony,” which exemplifies the band’s use of harmonizing and alternating vocals; “Public Domain,” with its chorus of whoa-ohs; and the booze-tinged “My Future’s So Bright…” and “Waking Up in the Monroe House…,” both of which mix storytelling lyrics with personal reflection. The fact that Dopamines thread such familiar territory without feeling stale is impressive, and they manage to continue the energy through 13 songs in 25 minutes without feeling high strung or too repetitive. Considering this is the pop-punk band’s second album, there is still plenty of room for further development.