A Dashboard Fan's Confession

I didn't plan on being a Dashboard Confessional fan. Quite the opposite, actually. Y'see, I try to come off as a bit of an old codger when it comes to the state of pop music. I claim that nearly all music being produced today is throw-away. Some of it is fun to listen to, but with a few notable exceptions (Dave Matthews) it's not music that will really stand up as the years go on. In other words, I can't picture a whole lot of demand for the Jason Mraz Greatest Hits anthology, or the OutKast Ultimate Collection: Volume One CD.

(And yes, I'll grant that it probably is an age thing. Bell Biv DeVoe was a mainstay of my youth-- not exactly timeless, but it suuure was fun listening to "Motownphilly" this weekend.)

The Best of BBD: Sign of the apocalypse?

Anyways. With this in mind, I heard a song from Dashboard Confessional last winter while on the road to Austin. It ("Again I Go Unnoticed") truck me initially as a catchy song, but that's not necessarily unique. Matchbox 20 is full of those. What made me take notice, though, was the lyrics.

So quiet another wasted night,
the television steals the conversation
exhale, another wasted breath,
again it goes unnoticed.

OK, it's not Shakespeare. But it's more inspired than a lot of the drivel out there. I've always been impressed with good lyrics, maybe because I've tried to write them. Emphasis on "tried." To wit:

I see the pillow on the bed, reminds me where you laid your head
I smell your perfume in the air, gonna get you back I swear
I hear your voice in the crowd, my mind tells me to scream out loud

*shakes head slowly*

Oh yeah, my point. Chris Carrabba's lyrics made an impression, enough of which led me to purchase The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, DC's 2001 release. While there are a few clunkers, it's a great disc. They use acoustic guitars appropriately, and Carrabba's voice, while best in small doses, fits his subject matter nicely. Tangent: Dashboard (apparently) slots into the category of emo rock, "emo" being short for emotional and signifying (again, apparently) that the singer writes about his/her feelings. I'll happily be corrected, but is this really startling enough to qualify as its own genre? End tangent. What I like best about Dashboard is how their lyics melt into my brain and how I find myself thinking about them on the bus, mowing the lawn, going to sleep.

Carrabba, the brains behind the Dashboard.

With that in mind, I made my way to downtown Tar-zhay last week to pick up their latest release, A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar. As is my habit, I was disappointed by the first listen. Hardcore Dasboard fans call the disc a sellout because it's less acoustic-focused and therefore more radio friendly. I think it works for them, a defining example being "Hands Down," the first song released for radio. An up-tempo ditty about an early relationship encounter, DC employs electric guitars to give the song the kind of edge it needs and would have been lost by acoustics.

"Rapid Hope Loss" follows, talking about how the right perspective about a relationship can only be perceived once it's over. Carrabba can truly sound pissed off when he sings, and adds to the kiss-off feeling of the lyrics: I guess that all you've got is all you're gonna get / So much for so much more. "Carry This Picture For Luck" is a great example of how keeping a song simple might be the smartest thing a band can do. Shooting a hole in the theme behind this article, "Ghost of a Good Thing" has the least-inspiring lyrics but is my favorite musically.

The rest of the disc is still growing on me. I must admit that it does stay electric throughout and might benefit from some of the acoustic charm of Places-- which was too acoustic. Bottom line: I'm never happy. But I'll deal, especially with the powerful lyrics that Dashboard Confessional is able to provide.



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