It's clear from the opening of "Don't Wait" that this will be an emotional ride. The dramatic chord changes -- reminiscent of the opening of U2's "Where the Streets Have No Name" -- let us know that we are in for some soul searching, and songwriter Chris Carrabba's plaintive voice describes the beautiful pain to which he must subject his eyes.
It's interesting that Dusk and Summer opens in a way that brings The Joshua Tree to mind. Both are well-produced (Daniel Lanois was involved in the creation of both), well-written albums that are accessible to a broad range of rock fans. However, U2 looked inward and found a mirror that reflected the outside world, while Carrabba looked inside and found an emotional car crash from which he could not tear his gaze. The Joshua Tree wants to change the world; Dusk and Summer wants the beautiful girl down the street.
DC comes from the post-Sunny Day Real Estate school of emo that blew up at the turn of the millennium. It's rock music for teenagers with downcast eyes who are searching for their places in love and life. Some of the songs are slow and heartbroken, while others are fast and energetic and heartbroken. But DC taps into a hopeful drama that is kind of fun. (Of course, I think Morrissey is fun, so I may not be the most objective judge.) While the lyrics are overwrought, they seem honest. They're translucent enough to speak to anyone who has ever hurt -- because of love or a lack of love. In a perfect world, "Stolen" would dominate proms the way "Open Arms" did 25 years ago, and "Dusk and Summer" would provide the soundtrack to the summer sunsets for a million kids who are feeling the pain of falling in love for the first time.
My comparisons between DC and U2 are infallible... as long as you skip "Slow Decay." It's still a song about heartbreak, but in an entirely different way. It shows that Carrabba is capable of looking into himself and seeing a mirror that reflects the outside world. It's a dark song, probably the darkest on the album, and it has nothing to do with pretty girls or beaches or sunsets. This song, more than any other on the album, makes me think that DC may surprise us next time around.
The music is very good, at least by the standards of third-generation emo. It's melodramatic and a bit ridiculous, but the songs are well-written, and Don Gilmore's production brings out DC's most accessible elements without sacrificing their bite. The songs are somewhat formulaic, and don't set DC far apart from their contemporaries. With that said, however, Carrabba is good at describing what it's like to feel as if you're loneliest person who has ever walked the face of the planet.
The cover photo fits the mood of the album very well, but the rest of the jacket is lacking. The close-ups are completely out of place, and the front-facing band photo is the epitome of a generically awful group shot. The other photos aren't bad, but there's nothing particularly special about them. Much like the music, they convey a mood in a somewhat unoriginal way.
Listen if you like: Jimmy Eat World, Sunny Day Real Estate, Promise Ring, Silverstein
If it were food, it'd be: saltwater taffy that's been sweetened by a teardrop