Review Summary: It's pretty and all, but "The Shade of Poison Trees" is still pretty much just another Dashboard album.
Anyone who tries to deny liking “Screaming Infidelities” is lying. I’ve said it before and will continue to say it, because that was a killer single that put Chris Carrabba, former head of Further Seems Forever and currently Dashboard Confessional, on the map. The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most
is some of the best acoustic pop of the century, particularly that people actually like. Then a few albums later, Carrabba decided to take the acoustic act and expand it to a full band, and people begin to cringe a little bit. His last album in said format, Dusk and Summer
, was a slight disappointment, still showcasing his excellent songwriting but suffering from a lack of energy.
Going back to the acoustic formula that made him famous, Chris Carrabba has steered Dashboard back into the acoustic pop realm with The Shade of Poison Trees
. While there are still some songs that feature the full band, and for the most part you’ll at least find the rhythm section in a song, the focus is fully back on Carrabba and his guitar, which as any Dashboard fan will tell you is where it belongs. So, wait, why is The Shade of Poison Trees
still not any better than their last few albums?
To put it simply, Chris Carrabba just cant make an album anymore. Everything here is pristine, pretty, and quite enjoyable to listen to. He always keeps the lyrics close to his heart and generally toeing the line in just the right direction between sappy and genuinely heartfelt. He uses his falsetto more than ever before, but that isn’t a bad thing and while old fans may be put off, it is really one of the higher points. So just what is wrong with an album that seemingly does everything right? Well, he really only wrote like 3 or 4 songs.
The album is just downright repetitive. Moreso on the non-acoustic tracks, its easy to have songs blend in with each other. The same raises in pitch, the same song progressions, the same cool little guitar licks, the same vocal techniques, the same topics about love, estrangement and betrayal that he’s been talking about since 2000, and well, he might use his falsetto a little too much. There’s nothing wrong with his formula, and individually there isn’t a bad song here to speak of. Then again, its really hard to pick out songs that stand out. “The Shade of Poison Trees” stands out because of an almost ethereal backdrop, and “Keep Watch for the Mines” is a little more accusatory than most songs on here, which is refreshing. But the only real standout is “Little Bombs”, a highly energetic song that actually sounds like he still has the conviction he had on The Swiss Army Romance
and The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most
All in all, The Shade of Poison Trees
is a slight improvement over last years Dusk and Summer
. The improvement comes from the moments where Carrabba returns to acoustic form, with the full band songs still disappointing slightly. Its hard to dislike anything here, but unfortunately its also hard to find anything memorable. As usual, dashboard puts out an album with a couple of very good songs, and a bunch of passable filler. Recommended for fans, but still has nothing on what Dashboard used to put out.