Editor’s Pick: The Best Pop-Punk Album of 2010

By Ellie Rulon-Miller

Courtesy Flickr/Kelociraptor

With a mountain of new albums being released each year, it is easy to disregard those that do not get enough attention from mainstream media to make the Billboard Top 40 charts. Artists will release their best work yet, and it will go completely unnoticed by the greater audiences they deserve. Such is the case with The Dopamines’ “Expect the Worst.”

Released in June 2010 on Paper+Plastick, the album has gained a reputation among punk reviewers as one of, if not the best pop-punk album that year. “Expect the Worst” is 25 minutes and 15 seconds worth of unabashed punk rock and attitude that it cannot be ignored.

At times, Mike “Mikey Erg” Yannich will play with the band; he is in the Dopamines’ music video for their single off of “Expect the Worst,” “Public Domain.”

The video is full of the typical elements of a punk rock/pop-punk video: destruction and beer. The band is playing in a room with symbols of bad luck stuck everywhere: black umbrellas hang from the ceiling, salt shakers stand lined up on a table. After the second chorus, the band proceeds to break and spill all of the salt shakers, along with everything else in the room, with their instruments. Singer/guitar player Jon Lewis spins around a black umbrella underneath a ladder. It all happens in between pulls on cans of beer and bottles of champagne. The scene is fast, fun and denounces the idea of bad luck.

Yannich has been proclaimed by many as “The King of Pop-Punk” and is behind the brilliantly relatable lyrics and quintessential sound of the reigning “Best Pop-Punk Band Ever,” The Ergs.

The Dopamines’ sound has some similarities to that of the Ergs, yet the kick-you-in-the-face attitude is all their own.

The album focuses much of its energy on the rejection of the common lifestyle in which a person goes to college and gets started on a career path. Lyrics like, “The life that you knew is just passing through, kicking dust into your eyes” in the song “October 24th” evoke thoughts of the fun, former life a person threw away in favor of the cubicle life. The song “June 4th” is similar: “My life’s not in a bank, gaining interest, losing interest. It’s in this van, in this can, on your finger, set the rest on fire.”

One of the highlights of the album is the song “Dick Simmons.” It has the feel of a punk rock anthem, as a number of the songs on “Expect the Worst” do. It punches you right in the throat in a fit of dismissal; each and every line screams, “Your reality is not the same as mine, and mine rules.”

One of the dominating themes in “Expect the Worst” is doing what you want and disregarding status symbols as a means of showing how happy you are with your life. In an interview published on punknews.org in which the Dopamines’ Lewis and Municipal Waste’s Tony Foresta interview each other, Lewis discloses the inspiration for the song “Cincinatti Harmony,” saying that the idea formed in his head after constantly hearing a former boss tell tales of all the material things she liked to buy.

In telling about the origin of the song, Lewis said “it developed into hatred toward all the people who are so eager to tell you how great their lives are, and they act like they care about what you have going on so they can feel better about themselves. I’ve been tossed around a lot by past and present employers, and kind of betrayed by what is considered a career and all that… I found out a beer and some friends [kind of] take the sting away from that.” One of the most telling lines in “Cincinnati Harmony” say, “Booze on my breath, holes in my shoes, make no mistake, better off than you.”

“Expect the Worst” also deals with the loss of friends to the lifestyle it so adamantly opposes. The song “It Really Couldn’t Be Any Other (We’ll F**k You Like Superman)” deals with friends abandoning the lifestyle of their youths, referring to friends as kids: “Now that the kids are gone, we go through less alcohol, and my prescription for Lorazepam lasts two weeks longer. And at 4 a.m., I won’t get shaken awake by a reminder of how cool I was when I was his age.”

It is a shame and a half that the Dopamines are not a more widely-known band than they are. Their refusal to surrender the fun things in life is a timeless concept, and one that every person can relate to. “Expect the Worst” is set to go down as one of the quintessential albums of pop-punk.

Ellie Rulon-Miller can be reached at [email protected]