By: Patrick Bales –
Nine songs make up Crooked Shadows, the new record from Dashboard Confessional (out Feb. 9th via Dine Alone), seemingly one for each of the years since the band’s last full-length release.
The album is a welcome return to form for the band, particularly in the eyes of their rabid fan base. But it continues a tradition that’s plagued Dashboard since founder Chris Carrabba rounded out the sound from his initial releases with a full-band. As a tandem, Dashboard Confessional is fairly nondescript, difficult to tell apart from any number alt-pop-punk units.
Songs including the title track and “Belong” are the kinds of tunes modern rock stations would have played the hell out of 15 years ago. But unless the DJ told you the name of the band, in the pre-Shazam days, you’d never get the name of the band right, because it really could have been any number of similar sounding bands being played at the time.
But when the focus is just on Carrabba and his acoustic guitar, watch out.
Carrabba’s songwriting has always been showcased strongest with minimal accompaniment. Only an acoustic guitar was needed to punctuate all the heartbreak, all the emotion found in the songs that made Dashboard Confessional the darlings they were in the early 2000s emo scene.
It’s unsurprising, then, that the album’s strongest tracks are its simplest. “Heartbeat Here” is not unlike the great acoustic numbers that thrust Carrabba into the spotlight. But he isn’t the outcast, the forgotten one this time around. Instead, his love is reciprocated. Dashboard Confessional songs in 2018 feature a protagonist who is older, wiser and – sorry girls – married.
It’s one of the reasons this album is can be viewed as a successful comeback. Carrabba is a smart enough writer to know that he can’t write the same kinds of songs in his early-40s as he did in his early-20s. While bands like Weezer can get away with writing songs about college girls over and over again, Carrabba would be doing a disservice to himself as an artist if he was still lamenting about cheating girlfriends and being under aged.
The nine songs on Crooked Shadows show how Carrabba’s song writing has evolved as he’s aged. Album closer “Just What To Say” takes us deep inside Carrabba’s mind during the writing process that went on before the record came to life. The same vulnerability that so many latched onto, that was present nearly 20 years ago, is still there. Only now, it manifests through self-doubt rather than fears of having your heart ripped out.
If the album was 40 minutes of Carrabba and his guitar, it would be a real winner. Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case.