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Dashboard Confessional - Crooked Shadows (Album Review)

Tuesday, 27 February 2018 Written by Jennifer Geddes

Dashboard Confessional forget the importance of being earnest on their seventh release, ‘Crooked Shadows’, which is troubled by confusing production choices and lacklustre lyrics. Still, some elements that made the emo veterans so engaging over a decade ago remain.

Back in the early 2000s, the band took ‘A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar’ to No.2 on the Billboard chart, while Chris Carrabba displayed total conviction when leading audiences in singing lyrics like: “And the plaster dented from your fist, in the hall where you had your first kiss.”

His music may have sounded a million miles away from emo’s hardcore roots, but the connection was that the music was direct, challenging, passionate and very much part of a dedicated community. Very little of that formula remains on ‘Crooked Shadows’.

Here Carrabba has been reduced to singing “We got the radio pumping jams” on Belong, which also sees him team up with EDM producers Cash Cash. The closing acoustic track, Just What To Say, tries to recapture the vulnerable intimacy of the band’s better years, but fails to land the emotional punches. “And every day, I take a white page and try very hard to know just what to say,” Carrabba sings.

Only the opening track, We Fight, has any power behind it. Originally written by Carrabba about his love of the scene, he now feels like its generic punk stance has taken on a grander meaning in the current political climate “We never learned to keep our voices down,” he sings. “No, we only learned to shout. So we fight our way in. And we fight our way out.”

The album as a whole sees Carrabba trying on all sorts of different musical styles. About Us is a stadium anthem reminiscent of earlier Fall Out Boy. Heart Beat Here is an acoustic-driven track with Mumford & Sons-style backing vocals. Catch You, meanwhile, has a very confusing mesh of ‘80s influences that includes prominent bass, synth melodies and a little shimmering guitar, none of which really gel that well. What is consistent throughout, though, is that is that Carrabba remains an engaging performer.

This is the band’s first release with their new label, Fueled By Ramen, who are in the business of making Top 40 hits with bands like Paramore, Panic! At The Disco and Twenty One Pilots. Bands that Carrabba helped pave the way for. Nine years is a long time to be out of the game if you’re looking for a chart smash, and today’s teenagers won’t necessarily be familiar with Dashboard Confessional. If this is an attempt to introduce the band to a new generation, then Carrabba seems a bit lost in the modern pop landscape.

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