Barely a year after the last one, we suddenly have another Thunder album, presumably thanks to the pandemic, which has screwed up all sorts of writing, recording and touring schedules.
While 2021’s All The Right Noises was written and recorded pre-covid but then delayed, Dopamine was made when everything in the world had already gone pear-shaped – and it shows, particularly in Luke Morley’s lyrics, which often glow with optimism, looking forward to when things will get back to normal.
Musically, the band have crafted an ambitious double album, a sprawling but cohesive 16 tracks, exploring what Thunder are and can be, as they veer from typical hard-rocking to more experimental material. Kicking off in familiar territory, opener The Western Sky celebrates the band’s annual trans-America charity motorbike ride and has an uplifting chorus as expansive as the landscapes it describes.
The upbeat we’ll-get-through-it vibe continues on the self-explanatory One Day We’ll Be Free Again, the wide-eyed Across The Nation (‘We’ll drown in a wave of joy across the nation’), the who-dares-wins sentiment of All The Way and the joyful Dancing In The Sunshine.
The strength of any Thunder album, though, is the variety it offers, and that’s where Dopamine really takes off. Given the opportunity, they have fearlessly gone for it. Still positive but switching from party-time sunshine to the romance of moonlight, Big Pink Supermoon impresses with its bluesy jazzy swing and long, cool saxophone solo outro.
The acoustic Just A Grifter takes an unexpected folky and oddly Gallic tone with fiddle and accordion in the mix, while the pleasingly riffy Disconnected goes Beatlesy and psychedelic in the middle.
The slightly more left-field diversions are of course complemented by mellower tracks like the roosty, slide guitar-driven Even If It Takes A Lifetime, poignant ballad Unravelling and piano-and-vocals track Is Anybody Out There, and powerful darker rockers like The Dead City, No Smoke Without Fire, the glammy stomp of Black and the conspiracy theory-skewering I Don’t Believe The World.
It’s an awful lot to absorb in one go, but repeated listening highlights the impressive songwriting chops on display, and at this stage in their career the band can afford to indulge themselves and stretch the boundaries of what a Thunder album can offer. Ironically, these are all the right noises too, just a bit different.
Ultimately, though, the question is, where do Thunder go with the next one?