Review Summary: No one captures the spirit of youth like Dashboard Confessional.
It took me soo long to get into Dashboard Confessional. My friend loved them and would always put them in the stereo at the wood shop where we work, and I would just hate it. I had the state of mind that most people have for Dashboard, that they just sound so mainstream and wussy. Slowly but surely, I started to tolerate them, then moderately enjoy them, and now I love em. This was odd, because at the same time I was starting to turn away from mainstream rock that I had listened to for years.
Prior to A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar, Dashboard Confessional was basically just Chris Carrabba on his acoustic guitar. For this album he picked up a full band, which is a good thing, because Carrabba’s acoustic work wasn’t going to get him much farther. There’s nothing offensive about Dashboard; clean guitars, nice vocals and harmless lyrics give them an undeniably mainstream-friendly sound. One must look deeper than the docile surface to find what makes Dashboard great. What makes this album and Dashboard great is the emotion. I’ve heard people call Dashboard emo, and although Dashboard doesn’t really fit what I consider to be emo, if you think emo is simply ‘emotional music’, than I couldn’t agree more.
Carrabba captures the emotion of young love perfectly. We’ve all thought we were in love back when we were 12-17 (some of us still are), and remember how happy and excited we were when we would talk to our ‘lovers’ on the phone or AIM or whatever. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but that’s what it was. We were on top of the world, we had everything figured out, we knew what love was, despite what our parents said. I remember sneaking around because my parents didn’t want me to have a girlfriend. I’m sure you all remember how happy you were just to hang out for a while with the one you liked. “Hands Down” brings me back to that time, with quick, hushed riffs during the verse and lyrics like “Your legs are smooth as they graze mine”, and “let’s not get busted”. And “Hands down this is the best day I can ever remember”. Another great song is “Bend and Not Break”, with softly sung lyrics like “Just hold me close to you”. The lyrics are immature and cheesy, but that’s what young love is, isn’t it?
Not long after we found ourselves ‘in love’ in our early teens we found what it was like to get hurt and have our hearts get ‘broken’. There’s no one better than Dashboard at making songs about breaking up and heartache! “Carve Your Heart” features a quiet organ with quiet riffs that gives the song a downcast feeling as Carrabba sings “Man it takes a silly girl to lie about the dreams she has, Lord it takes a lonely one to wish that she had never dreamt at all”. The song that most people are familiar with on A Mark, A Mission,… is “Ghost of a Good Thing”, which is dominated by Carrabba’s beautiful falsetto. This song is so heartfelt, I don’t really know how to explain it. The harmonies and soft guitars make the song very catchy as well, I find myself trying to sing along every time I hear it.
Dashboard shows the angrier side of our youth as well, with songs like “Rapid Hope Loss”, which has a cheeky, arrogant, and mean feeling. The riffs are innocent and catchy, but Carrabba sings and sometimes yells lyrics like “Cause now that I can see you, I don’t think you’re worth a second glance” and “So much for all the promises you made, they served you well”. Other great songs on this album are “So Beautiful” and “Hey Girl”, both of which perfectly embody the passion and naivety of youth.
After hearing this album I always feel a little younger and I am reminded of a simpler time, when the only things I had to worry about were girls and hoping my parents won’t find out that I snuck out the night before. Now I have college and a job and am always out of money and really have little time for chasing after girls. Yes those years were ridiculous, and I’m not saying I’d rather be 14 again, but it’s nice to remember, huh?