Review Summary: exceeds all expectations
Making a pop-punk record in the current music climate means either one of two things. 1) Your band consists of four scrawny young men sporting eyeliner, neon v-necks, and haircuts that suck. 2) Your band goes all out making a catchy and energetic collection of songs sure to please the punk rock lifers and the random teenagers who aren’t aware that Dillinger Four exist.
File Cincinnati, Ohio’s The Dopamines under category two. Expect the Worst kicks in strong with “You’d Make a Good Horsecop” before one-upping its self with the album’s best track “Public Domain.” “Public Domain” is a great example of why Expect the Worst works so well. The track is punchy and upbeat with lyrics that are as smart and cynical as they are straight-forward and catchy. “Cincinnati Harmony” showcases the bands obvious love of songs meant for drinking and having a good time. The guitar leads provide a “get the *** up” feeling and it’s the kind of wit and self-depreciation in lyrics like “ Oh how have I been doing 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,” that make The Dopamines stand out as an honest and talented group.
The drawbacks to Expect the Worst are the same problems that hinder most bands in the punk and pop-punk pile up. The general sound of the songs leaves a want for diversity and makes quite a few of the mid-album tracks feel tired. However, there is a need to acknowledge that The Dopamines have a distinct style and it works. Changing their style in favor of a more diverse or expansive sound could actually take away from the solidity and earnestness that make this band so refreshing. As the record begins to close up tracks like “The Glendora House” and “3244” prove to be solid offerings leading up to closer “It Really Couldn’t Be Any Other,” a minute and forty-two second gem. The bouncy and hook driven sound of the closing track paired with its stop/start bridge and the closing guitar lead bring to mind later era Jawbreaker.
All in all, The Dopamines have crafted an album that can stand toe to toe with genre classics from Kerplunk! to Dillinger Four’s Midwestern Songs of the Americas. More importantly this album goes above and beyond the recent efforts from the genre. Expect the Worst is certainly the best pop-punk offering of 2010. Here’s hoping that the people who were paying attention will take this as a template to make 2011 the next banner year for pop-punk.