A lot of Dashboard Confessional's fans discovered Chris Carrabba's songs during the time when radio was dominated by grinding nü-metal, boy-bands, and gangsta rap; by contrast, Carrabba's acoustic angst-ballads sounded honest and direct, especially to a generation apparently unaware that heartbroken guys with guitars are as common as coffee shops. Now, three years after trying out a bigger rock sound on A Mark. A Mission. A Brand. A Scar.—and two years after landing the diamond-hard smash hit "Vindicated" on the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack—Dashboard Confessional is trying to hold onto the young-adult audience as it migrates into graduate school or the job market. The result is Dusk And Summer, an album of dryly mature love songs with an arena-ready sheen that contains echoes of Coldplay and, oddly enough, Journey.
Equally oddly, Dusk And Summer works best when Carrabba gives the freest rein to his inner superstar. The resounding "The Secret's In The Telling" has the booming sonic setting and ersatz teen-rebel lyrics of the best hanging-out-at-the-water-park anthems, while the elegiac "So Long, So Long" is a summer beach ballad for grown-ups, featuring guest vocals by neo-fogey Adam Duritz of Counting Crows. And the album-opener "Don't Wait" is overwrought in the best way, with the pounding beat and ringing guitars matching Carrabba's impulse to mythologize every moment of every relationship.
But listeners can only take so much bombast—and so many lines like "My capillaries scream" and "If it is born in flames, then we should let it burn." Most of Dusk And Summer sounds factory-made and even kitschy, and when Carrabba grounds his romanticism in the specifically erotic, as on the title track and the album-closer "Heaven Here," the stunted melodies and bland arrangements tend to steamroll the sexy. If Dashboard Confessional is going to be remade as another VH1 plugger, that's far from a tragedy. But there's still something slightly melancholy about watching the icon of a whole subset of '00s youth culture participate in making himself forgettable.