It is 2012 and I still jam to Dope every now and then. Bite me. No Regrets ruled when it came out in 2009 and their older stuff has aged surprisingly well compared to many other nu metal acts. Regardless, American Apathy, the album in question, was definitely the low-point of Dope’s career. What was supposed to be a return to roots album after the softer, more melodic Group Therapy, turned out to be a trainwreck caused by overtrying and messy execution. American Apathy is quite simply nothing else than a musical equivalent of a midlife crisis.
Throughout the whopping 15 tracks (whopping for a metal album), Dope try to recapture the essence of their debut album, Felons And Revolutionaries, by bringing back the industrial effects and sharper attitude. It is also evident they were desperate to create another song as successful as "Everything Sucks", yet they forgot that: a) they were past their twenties, so creating a powerful industrial rock/nu metal angst anthem may not come as naturally anymore and b) it was 2005, and no one really craved for said angst anthem in those days. Still, Dope have never changed much as far as attitude is concerned, so I guess their attempts could be counted as valiant, right? To try and do what they've always done, just better, or at least just as well? If only they had actually done that.
Instead, going through American Apathy, you will find yourself wading through track after track of nonsense industrialized metal that tries to sound really badass, yet does not in any way, shape or form. The main question I find asking myself is how could they butcher their own formula so thoroughly? Even if Group Therapy was a generally softer affair musically, Dope had always been the band known for shouting out angsty lyrics over catchy, faux-aggressive guitars. The band’s personality and approach never changed in between the debut and American Apathy (and hasn’t changed to this day!). So that is why I call this a midlife crisis record, even if the band members were still way too young to be experiencing a midlife crisis themselves: it is an album that tries so hard to re-achieve past glory, yet fails in spectacular fashion.
What really makes me scratch my head though, is why did the guys in Dope feel an irresistible need to fully return to their most primitive roots in the first place. They hadn’t had a total fluke of an album, they hadn’t lost their loyal fanbase, they hadn’t become something or someone they were not, and so on. It seems like they wanted to create another Felons And Revolutionaries just for the hell of it, but became too obsessed with the idea itself to make something good out of it. So as the result, what you get out of American Apathy, is a record that doesn’t sound disorientated, but even worse, too ardent for its own good, as ridiculous as that may seem. Dope sound like a cover band of themselves here, trying to capture the essence of "Everything Sucks" and "Debonaire" in their most fanatic and, regrettably, amateurish way.
Even when some good songs pop up ("Survive" is positively one of Dope’s most aggressive songs; "Always" is a good cut that is driven by a crafty chorus melody; "Let’s ***" is so over the top that, when listened to with the right mood, is actually pretty amusing, especially thanks to the catchy electronics in the chorus; and finally, Dope’s cover of "People Are People" is rather decent, though obviously not as good as the original), they're too few and far between to impact the album in a way that makes the bad songs sound more tolerable. Besides, the lyrics on this cd are probably some of the worst I have ever heard, and that is saying a lot, seeing as I can easily tolerate them on Dope's other efforts, which are by no means lyrical masterpieces, mind you. While the lyrics on albums such as Felons And Revolutionaries and No Regrets can be absorbed in an amusing, tongue-in-cheek way, here they are too cringe-worthy to possess any comedic or, more truthfully, any value at all.
Edsel Dope, and Dope in general, has always had the moto of being serious about what they do, but not actually being serious in their output - a logic that is absolutely fine by me. Dope is a band known for its desire to rock the crowd, to get the party going, and the world needs more rock acts with such mentality. Yet, on American Apathy, they just overdid it. On this album, the band reached a point where the music was no longer fun to listen to, and for a band that thrives exactly on that, it was a major blow. We can now look back on 2005’s American Apathy as nothing more than a misstep, as everything Dope got wrong on this album, they got right on 2009's No Regrets. Still, that doesn't make American Apathy any better – an industrial rock/nu metal album generally devoid of redeeming features.