Dashboard Confessional: Dusk and Summer

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.

Music: 3.5 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
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.

Packaging: 3 EPFL library cards out of a possible 5
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


bob_vinyl said...

Your food analogy is even more emo than Dashboard Confessional. Still, the review makes me think I need to listen to this now, in the waning days of summer.

taotechuck said...

You're right. This is a summer album. It's a shame you didn't listen to it when you were at the beach, for I think that might be the perfect atmosphere.

Marcus Satellite said...

Hi Pratt Songs,

Could you review my album, The Marcus Satellite Tribute To U2. It's 13 U2 songs covered in an electronica style with blues, rock, and pop singers. I would love your honest feedback, and you can make all the food analogies you want :)

Uh...it's not in your library, but I can send you a copy, or you could pick one up on iTunes.


taotechuck said...

Marcus, I'd be happy to review it at rnrnonsense, but you didn't leave me a way to reach you. I can't find an email on your website, so drop me a line if you want a review.