Last weekend, my roommates and I brought our two years of running a punk house-venue to a glorious end. We got in touch with all of the best bands that had played our house in the past 24 months and convinced them to come back to our sweaty, beer-soaked basement for one last hurrah. There were lots of stand-out performances -Vacation kicked things off with a bang, The Sidekicks played like pros, New Creases turned things up a notch and Like Bats demonstrated the perks of binge drinking- but it was The Dopamines that brought the house down.
The Cincinnati three-piece is no stranger to the musty dungeons of the Halloween House (the North side of the house) and Moria (the south side of the house). In the past two years, they have played the house around 15 times. When I first saw them, the band only had crummy CD-R demos for sale. Now, a thousand beers later, the band has just unleashed their second album, Expect The Worst.
Following the success of their first album and their various 7"s, Expect The Worst shows the band taking giant leaps forward. Sure, the songs are still about DUIs and blacking out, but the lyrics are better, the melodies are more infectious and the musicianship is tighter.
ETW is full of bright points, but none burns brighter than "Public Domain". The song retains the 'classic' Dopamines sound and themes of self-deprecation but showcases the band's exponential growth over the last few years. The chorus alone is worth the price of the album.
- The Dopamines: Wishing that these bottles could refill themselves...
"Cincinnati Harmony" is a bouncy ode to bitter frustration. The song, which is about a 20-something punk running into a big-shot acquaintance in a bar, features some of the best lines on the album: "Oh how have I been lately?/ wouldn’t you like to compare?/ Well since you asked: I’m clinically depressed,/ I lost my job and everyone thinks I'm worthless./ Booze on my breath, holes in my shoes,/ make no mistake; better off than you."
The rest of the album is a tip-of-the-hat to substance abuse and DIY punk rock, but the last song, "It Really Couldn't Be Any Other", puts the shoe on the other foot. Sung from a parent's perspective, the song is about a boomerang child returning home and draining his parents with frustration and anxiety. "Now that the kids are gone", the song's parents exclaim, "We go through less alcohol and my prescription for Lorazepam lasts two weeks longer".
While their set at the house was cut short by the arrival of local law enforcement officers, it was still the highlight of the night. Despite the fact that all of the songs on Expect The Worst appear to be autobiographical, it is nice to know that The Dopamines are much happier and successful than their songs would let on. If this is any indication, then the Dopamines' future looks very bright indeed. You can download it from their label, Paper and Plastick.