The Dopamines – Vices

It’s a wonder these boys ever found time to record a third album. Their schedule seems to be full from now until three premature deaths from alcohol poisoning or liver failure. It’s a good job they managed to muster up the self-restraint to remain conscious for long enough to record Vices, because in doing so they have found a niche which can appeal to both the hardcore punk rockers and the pop-punk kids out there.

The Dopamines’ first two albums were no doubt more raw, unadulterated punk than this latest release. The second album, Expect the Worst, was particularly well received and this culminated in the band winning the Cincinnati Entertainment Award for best punk band of 2011. With such a powerful second album, there’s always a concern for how the third will turn out.

Whether the lads consciously decided to make an album with a different sound to their first two is open for debate, but the change is no bad thing. With Vices the band has found a more polished sound, taking the edge off the aggression. The increase in notable guitar riffs also helps the record appeal more to the pop-punk market than the straight-up punk of its predecessors. This potentially lighter, happier sound still deals with the same dark subject matter as ever. The lyrics cover all of the generic punk-esque topics: from failing and broken homes to the combination of drugs and alcohol. While these are fairly unimaginative and generic topics, they seem more relevant than ever with the western world enveloped in financial turmoil and with people struggling to even secure a dead-end job. The production on the album is obviously crisper than any of the band’s previous releases. It isn’t as if they are holding back, they are just venting their pent up energy and emotion through a fast burning fire rather than a series of rapid explosions like before.

The album opens with an interchange between punk and pop-punk as the first track, “You’re So Vain”, jumps quickly between different time signatures (a little excessive for a song which is only 90 seconds in length). With “Paid In Full” the boys start dealing with the issues of being a 21st century punk: “Now we’re packing our bags, ’cause heaven doesn’t have any room for losers like us…”. They also deliver one of many catchy choruses’ throughout the record, although for The Dopamines this is very much a pop-punk song.

The band also manages to flex a bit of muscle towards the end of the final track “10 Stories”. Out of nowhere they hit in with a strong, heavy instrumental which wouldn’t be out of place on a more progressive album and conjures thoughts of the Young Guns style outro. Unlike the Dopamines’ earlier work, this album may not grab your attention immediately. The album’s more reserved sound means it is much more likely to build up and grow on you, luring you in rather than assaulting you at first listen.

There is an odd point in the album though. Part way through an otherwise promising song “Don’t Mosh The Organ”, the music fades out and then back in again after merely one or two seconds. The reason for this escapes me entirely and whatever the band’s intentions were it just sounds awkward. Other than this blip, “Vices” is a pretty solid pop-punk album even though it doesn’t bring anything new to the table. The highlight of the record has to be the bands’ new experiment with the pop side of punk, showing they can do more than get wasted and then write a quick, angry song about it.

3.5 out of 5 high fives!

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