I love Dope, the band. After hearing “Debonaire” and “You Spin Me ‘Round” after their first album came out, I was hooked. An interesting thing about the band is that while their first 3 albums were released in short successions, the last 3 have had long breaks in between. They’ve done small tours here and there, so it’s not like Dope has ever been completely dormant, but the flow of new music is slow. The new Dope album called Blood Money Part 1 is out now. I’ve been listening to it for a couple weeks now, and I have some thoughts.
Before I get into this review, I want to recap a little because…well, just read on.
The last Dope album, No Regrets, hit stores in March of 2009. That means it’s been over 7 years since their last album. And before that, there was an album called American Apathy in 2005. Personally, I thought the production quality wasn’t consistent, but it was good and nothing too terribly old or new sounding at the time. After 4 years, No Regets finally comes out. Most of the songs do not sound like Dope. It’s heavier, faster, and more metal. According to the liner notes, it was more or less all Edsel on that album, just like the previous ones.
Blood Money was supposed to be out years ago, in early 2014. In the last 7 years, the live band has changed so many times. Recently however, the classic Dope lineup of Edsel Dope, Virus, Acey Slade, and Racci Shay got together and did some shows. Since this seemed to have happened while Blood Money was in production, my thought was maybe that group of guys was going to record the album. Like, they’d almost start from scratch. It would have explained why the album got delayed as much as it did.
But no, that’s not the case. Virus contributed a few guitar tracks, but the very large majority of the album was written and performed by Edel and Nikk Dibs, who played live guitar on tour from 2013 to 2015. More specifically, Edel played drums on all the songs, but only played guitar on a few.
What I’m getting at is that Blood Money Part 1 doesn’t sound like Dope, for better or for worse. As a huge Dope fan, if you gave me instrumental versions of these songs, aside from 2 or 3 songs, I don’t think I would guess they were Dope songs in a million years. Since Nikk Dibs is the only new ingredient, it seems like he might be responsible for the sound. But then you think about No Regrets, which was basically all Edsel, and it didn’t really sound much like Dope either. So maybe Edsel really did want it to sound like this even if he wasn’t tracking guitars on all the songs.
The very first line of the liner notes reads as follows: “Dope is: Edsel Dope.” I’m too lazy to check, but I’m pretty sure none of the other Dope albums said that. I’m aware that Edsel has always been the brains behind the band, but I’m fairly certain a group of guys were also credited as being part of the band. It’s kind of weird to me, and I wonder if there was some legal mumbo jumbo that Edsel had to deal with. Based on the personnel, it does appear that this album was all recorded some time ago, so…I don’t know.
Anyway, let’s get into the songs.
Intro: Confessions of a Felon
If you listen to my albums, you know that I always put an intro track of sorts at the beginning. This is a 9 second audio sample that gets you in the mood.
This track wouldn’t have been out of place on No Regrets. It’s angry, mid-tempo, chugging, and sets the general tone of the album. It’s certainly listenable, but it’s not my favorite.
Shoulda Known Better
I don’t think I made this clear before, so I’ll try to now. When I said this album doesn’t really sound like Dope, I didn’t necessarily mean it as a bad thing. Even with the vocals, this particular song doesn’t follow a traditional Dope format. Lyrically, it’s about some sort of broken relationship that most people can probably relate to. But yeah, with a little editing, this song could do well on the radio. It’s heavy, but it’s fun to listen to. The verse riff reminds me of Ministry’s “N.W.O.” a little bit.
While I generally appreciate interludes such as this, I will usually skip this song. It’s a slow, sad dirge of a song accompanied by a little piano. But it’s short, and it makes for a nice break for the next song.
This song could have been recorded by just about any band. Like with “Blood Money,” I don’t mind listening to it, but it’s not my favorite.
Yes. This is an awesome song. It’s probably the most classic Dope sounding song on the album. It’s a little more faster paced. It has a lot of F words and screaming. You know, the usual. Given the subject matter of the song, it sounding “older” isn’t likely a coincidence.
Put this in with the title track and “1999.” If you like old Dope, you’ll like this.
A New Low
“Razorblade Butterfly”‘s cousin or something. It’s okay, but it’s a little drab.
Here we go. This is another classic sounding song. I can’t wait to hear this one live. It’s a faster, bad-attitude type of song.
I was going to just type “Skip.” for this, but that isn’t fair. As someone who prefers the album experience over the single experience, this track is fine. I love getting a new CD, pushing the play button, and doing nothing but listening to it. These songs were likely painstakingly put in a specific order for specific reasons. This track is more of an audio experiment than a song, so you probably won’t pick this song to randomly listen to. But when you are in the mood to listen to the whole album, it works as a buffer between the previous and subsequent tracks. My only genuine gripe with it is that it goes on a little too long.
End of the World
One of my favorite aspects of Dope has traditionally been that the songs are kind of negative and foul-mouthed, but they’re also fun to listen to. You sing along to them or dance or whatever. So lyrically, these songs aren’t too much of a departure from the past. But what is different is that we now have these sad outlooks that are also just kind of slow and sad to listen to. And I want to point out that I’m into that stuff, and I’m also into bands trying new things, but I’m just not sure I like it when Dope does it as much as they do on this album, as evidenced by “End of the World.”
Oh man, I remember when the single for this hit iTunes. I was renting a Mustang (forgive me), and I had it streaming “Selfish” through the speakers on repeat for 24 hours probably. It has some awesome double kick action. The chorus is very sing-along worthy. It’s very good. Yep.
My preference of this song over “End of the World” is important. I like this song a lot. It has a similar tempo, similar lyrical content, etc., but it’s just more interesting to listen to. There’s a cool breakdown thing in the middle that is very non-Dope, but I love it. If this style was explored more on the album, the album would be better. I want to be clear that I’m not looking for more of the same stuff Dope has always done. I want new stuff that is also good, like this song.
Heh. I didn’t look at the tracklist before listening to the album. If I did, I didn’t notice the name of the last song. Or if I did, I didn’t think it was THIS “Violet.” Yes, this is a cover of “Violet” by Hole. Every song Dope has covered has been awesome. Every single one. “You Spin Me ‘Round (Like a Record), ” “Fuck tha Police,” “People Are People,” “Rebel Yell,” and now “Violet” have all been great versions of other bands’ songs. I never would have guessed that they’d pick this one, as they’ve traditionally done 80’s songs. While fairly faithful the original, this cover still sounds like a Dope song. Boom.
And there you have it, my review of Dope’s Blood Money Part 1. Part 2 will probably come out next year. Or maybe in 2022. If you’ve followed Dope as long as I have, this album might surprise you. With an open mind, you should enjoy it. If all you want is Felons and Revolutionaries Part 2, well, go listen to that album again. It offers a decent variety of sounds. Everything from the dreariness of “End of the World” to the balls out ruckus of “Selfish” or “1999” can be found here. Most of the songs deal with ended relationships and the like, and if that’s what Edsel wanted to write songs about, I completely appreciate that. Perhaps Part 2 will cover different ground though.
Since I’ve listened to all the songs thoroughly, if you wanted me to compare it to other Dope albums, I suppose I could do that. Hm. Off the top of my head, I’m going to say these are my ratings, from most favorite to least favorite:
Group Therapy > Felons and Revolutionaries > American Apathy > No Regrets > Blood Money Part 1 > Life
I know a lot of people like Life a lot more than I do, the album and you know, actual life, so you can take that with a grain of salt. It’s always cool knowing what other people’s favorite albums are of bands that have been around for a while. I’m sure some people’s favorite Dope album is Life, but I think it’s still my least favorite.