Everything comes full circle in the end, and with Dusk And Summer Chris Carrabba proves the theory. When Carrabba left Floridian punk outfit Further Seems Forever to form Dashboard Confessional, the emphasis was very much on a stripped-down, more acoustic sound. Although those acoustic touches do remain, Carrabba's fourth album is very much a return to the crunchy rock of his former band - albeit with a very smooth commercial sheen.
Although long-term Dashboard fans will miss the more fragile moments, the new, big, epic sound is one that suits Carrabba. Whereas previous albums seemed to find him sounding too hemmed in at times with just an acoustic guitar or piano for company, now he's got the widescreen production (aided by U2's producer Daniel Lanois) that the grandiose vision of his songs demand.
What stops Dusk And Summer from falling into a pit of Nickelback-like sludge is the quality of Carrabba's songwriting. Although nothing here quite matches the unbridled joy of songs like Hands Down, Carraba remains a master at portraying the giddy rush of the first blooms of love or the melancholy despair of unrequited affection. Whether it be the urgent anthem of the opening Don't Wait or the hushed tones of the title track, Carraba remains the most unashamed romantic in emo.
Now and again, the lyrics become a bit cheesy - Reason To Believe's opening lines of "oh sweet lungs, don't fail me now" being a case in point. However, the fierce guitars and pounding drums mean that the listener is swept up with the sheer power of the song. The more restrained Stolen is better, being understated, simple and possessing a lovely chorus of "you have stolen my heart", it's one of the best tracks on the album.
Even better is So Long So Long, a gorgeous piano ballad featuring Counting Crows' Adam Duritz. It's a bittersweet and poignant song with Duritz' voice working really well with that of Carrabba's. Sadly, film producer Jerry Bruckheimer will probably come along and snap it up for the love scene of his latest blockbuster and ruin it for everyone, but for now it sounds just great.
The second half of the album does sometimes swing towards the anonymous FM rock that the Angels And Airwaves album too often fell victim to, with the thrashy, anti-war protest song of Slow Decay sounding a bit out of place here. Yet even when you think it’s all starting to sound the same, along comes a lovely reflective song like Dusk And Summer with some typically heartfelt Carrabba lyrics ("she made you better than you'd been before, and she told you bad things you wished you could change") that restores your faith almost immediately.
Dashboard Confessional may be destined to remain, like their contemporaries Matchbox 20 and The Dave Matthews Band, as one of those bands that are huge in the United States yet relatively little known over in the UK, and Dusk And Summer probably won't change that. Yet if emo music conjures up images of kohl-eyelined teenagers brooding away to whiney rock music, Dashboard Confessional could well be the band to change your mind.
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