If you’re at all familiar with The Dopamines’ back catalog, you would know that their songs are loud, fast, beer soaked party anthems with an angry twist. That is what immediately sets this record apart. Don’t get me wrong, these songs are irreverently loud and angry, but this isn’t a party album. This is a heated argument that just won’t quit. You won’t find a song about getting drunk and stumbling into your house to pee in the sink in front of your dog (“It Really Couldn’t Be Any Other” from 2010 record Expect the Worst). That being said, Tales of Interest is a serious album, a self-described “exorcism on vinyl.” This is immediately evident with the opening track “Kalte Ente.” It has a different tone than their previous releases. This album instantly feels heavier and darker.
The first single and third song, “Ire” boasts a chorus of “I can’t think of a better way to shove this right back into your lying face” and then later “It’s true what they say revenge feels pretty sweet!” At first glance this could seem like your standard punk break-up song, but it’s not that. There’s no humor, there’s no sympathy, but there is real emotional weight. The end of the song progressively slows and creates a kind of anticlimactic ending that is true of experiences that this song references.
"Business Papers,” first appearing on the 2012 compilation The Thing That Ate Larry Livermore (which is an incredible comp if you haven't heard it), is best categorized as punk rock for adults. It zeros in on being torn between wanting to be in a band full-time and needing to have a desk job full-time, so you can pay the bills. There is a reprise of this song toward the end of the record that has a demo-esque quality with different lyrics focusing on the darker side of the writing, but finds them growing more positive as the song persists. “And did you know I’m not really all that sad and these are the best times I’ve ever had?” This new perspective is interesting because it seems almost out of place, as if the writer is trying to reason with himself. It’s a simple change, but a relatable one. It’s a place everyone has been and that’s what makes the reprise just as important, to me, as the first version you hear.
“083133” is by far one of the most interesting songs on this record. It’s the shortest clocking in at a minute and ten seconds and finds the band leaning into their hardcore punk and metal influences more so than at any other point on Tales of Interest. It serves to add a versatility to the record that’s needed at the halfway point of most punk albums, but usually isn’t there. It also shows that the band can do more than just write fast, catchy pop-tinged punk songs, which you suspect from listening to the first half of this record and their back catalog, but “083133” really solidifies that fact.
“Expect the Worst” is the truest to what The Dopamines have come to be known for. It’s a self-deprecating song about paranoia that is rushes about at breakneck speed. Halfway through the song a slower, more atmospheric approach is applied to the vocals as they seem to weave in and out of the guitar tones.
“Heartbeaten by the Police” is another few minutes of experimentation for The Dopamines. A song about doing drugs, losing the love of your life, being beaten up by the police and getting arrested. On top of all of that, what makes this song so interesting is the production and the layering. Unlike the other songs on this record, the vocals don’t necessarily feel like they’re in the front. The song is vastly melodic and I can’t help but think of The Beach Boys, especially within the first 30 seconds. Because of the subject matter, this song would have been much easier to write as a standard punk song and it would’ve made perfectly good sense to write it that way, but The Dopamines didn’t and that makes this track really stand out and feel important in the context of the record.
The last song, “Everybody Dies” returns to form and sees the band capitalizing on what everyone already knew they could do so well. It feels like a song that I need to see live, it has an anthemic quality. At 1:45: “Yeah the barrels burn much brighter underneath the bridge of ire but the flames will reach much higher if you set the bridge on fire!” the steady build up in those couple of lines will see crowds erupting.
Tales of Interest is a record that fans of punk music and punk bands alike need to take note of and really listen too. The pacing is damn near perfect with experimental songs breaking up the expected monotony of a 2017 punk record. The lyrics are just as cynical, but more mature. The instrumentation is dense, but not so much that you feel crowded. The production was handled masterfully, no song sounds so rough that it might as well be a demo or so polished that it sounds fake. The Dopamines managed to create a record that will keep old fans coming to shows and excited about the material, while expanding their sound and crafting what I think is their best record yet.