In all honesty, I really like Chris Carrabba for some reason. I’ve truthfully never bought a Dashboard Confessional album, but all the singles I’ve heard I do quite enjoy (particularly Vindicated
and Screaming Infidelities
). So, when I saw he had a video on FUSE, I began to get interested and checked the net to see if he had a new album coming out. Lo and behold, Dusk & Summer
was only a week from being released at that point, and had already been leaked. Excitedly I grabbed it up, quite ecstatic that it would be a good album based on prior material and my train of thought he must be getting better. Strangely, on Dusk & Summer
, he produces easily the best material I’ve yet to hear from him…but then again, there’s really only two songs on here.
The album kicks off with some “Oh oh’s" from Carrabba and group, and in all honesty, that moment encapsulates the feel of the album perfectly. If this album is one thing, it’s emotional to the fullest, with impassioned cries of broken dreams, unrequited love, and of young love. Unfortunately, everything
on this album is over the top when it comes to being dramatic. Every song sounds like the subject matter is more dear to him than anything else he’s written, and it drags by the time the albums over. Sure, the songs are actually quite moving and Carrabba is a good singer (if whiney), but when every song seems like he’s just outpouring experiences and feelings, the end result is a feeling of detachment and a general “Okay Chris, I really don’t care anymore."
Well, the delivery is good if entirely too contrived and overdone, but perhaps the backbone of all of that will be solid. As a lyricist, I really don’t know what to make of Carrabba. Most of what’s here is well written and conceived, with Carrabba seemingly taking steps to insure he doesn’t throw out completely cliché and sappy lyrics. They unfortunately suffer much the same problem as most of the delivery and feel of the album does, in that every song is a heartfelt outpouring of whatever Carrabba has on his mind, with really no breaks in any song. For example, here’s a section from Stolen
"Invitations only grant farewells
Crush the best one of the best ones
Clear looker and cloudy eyed
Too early to say goodnight"
Now, this is from a completely different sounding song musically in Currents:
“If it is born in flames
Then we should let it burn
Burn as brightly as we can
And if its gotta end
Then let it end in flames
Let it burn all the way down
All the way down…"
Finally, one more passage from the albums rather strong opener, So Long:
“Hand out the window
Floatin' on air
Just a flip of the wrist
I'd be wavin' you goodbye
Drive past the lifeguard stand
Where I sit around waiting for you to remember
Well past the beach hotels
Where the girls are getting' bronzed on their monogrammed towels"
Everything else on the album really follows this same general formula. Yes, Carrabba can write some rather poignant lyrics about relationships, but the thing is, every last song
is about relationships and the emotions normally associated with them. For example, Stolen
speaks of a crushed heart rather elegantly, with that line "Invitations only grant farewells"
in particular striking a chord with me. However, notice that the other two passages are absolutely filled with much of the same general type of discussion and subject matter, and my decision to not take parts from every song for this example was due only to my wish to not make this 5 pages. It’s a sad fact that Carrabba indulges in the same topic far too often, and even if he had just strayed from the topic for two or three tracks, the lyrical content of the album wouldn’t have been nearly as much of a drag is it is.
Oh wait, I forgot. There are other members in Dashboard Confessional too. However, it was said best by someone I cannot recall (please remind me if you can) right here on these very forums: “You could just replace any of them, Carrabba is really the only one that matters." This is an unfortunate truth here on this album; the music aspect of it is quite boring. It sounds like any bland alt-pop group from the 90’s or 00’s, and rarely through my listening was my attention drawn towards it. Sure, they all do their jobs adequately, with bassist Scott Scoenbeck providing the most impressive (if you can even call it that), laying down some rather grooving and flowing basslines that give a solid foundation for the songs. He also provides the one genuine moment of musical wow-ness with the psuedo-bass solo that intro’s Slow Decay
. Otherwise, the other members of the band give adequate performances, with drummer Mike Marsh giving some good drum beats and the occasional fill and guitarist John Lefler contributing repetitive-but-not-terrible riff’s and chord progressions.
All in all, this album is a big disappointment. Its obvious Carrabba has buckets of writing talent at his disposal, and with a rather powerful and energetic voice coupled with emotional delivery, he’s a damn fine singer to boot. Unfortunately, with this album he potholed himself topics-wise, and ends up writing about the same things far too often, leading to a repetitive tone to the album that the rather boring musical aspect doesn’t help. In the end, I have ended up having man love for Chris Carrabba, but a distaste for this album. If you’re a fan of Dashboard, I wouldn’t doubt you’d love this album. If you want to check out one of the more talented songwriters of this generation, I’d also check this out. Otherwise, I really can’t recommend this album as a whole. It’s the antithesis of inconsistent, as there is no outright bad
song, but it’s just so contrived and drawn out (a huge drawback for an album that’s only 40 minutes long) and without much variation (however, Heaven Here
could possibly be one of the best songs I‘ve heard all year, and sounds quite different to anything on the album), that I can’t expect many to really fall in love with it. Well, at least Dusk and Summer
is still better than Back to Bedlam
. And that’s really the only praise any album needs, isn’t it?
Listen to these songs you sad, sad Dashboard fan: