Dashboard Confessional, 'The Shade of Poison Trees' (Vagrant)

7
The Shade of Poison Tree
Critical Mass
Label: Vagrant

by Jon Caramanica

Chris Carrabba's early songs were lovelorn, wussy morsels -- crisp, tautly melodic, and deeply felt. He was concise, and he was heartbroken, and then he was famous, opening for U2 and making Spider-Man, you know, relatable. But Carrabba must not have liked what he saw at the summit, and Shade, his fifth Dashboard Confessional album, is an attempt to reconcile the worlds within and outside his heart.

There are new scars here. On "Where There's Gold," he's brutally cynical about a girl who chases the limelight, only to fall short and end up a "gold digger." "Matters of Blood and Connection" nods to class struggle, with the singer scolding a scenester who's slumming on Daddy's money: "Drink well from your bottomless cup," he sneers.

This is novel, awkward turf for Carrabba, whose resentment has usually been far more personal. And for the most part, Shade does stay in that comfort zone. "Little Bombs" could be from the sessions for DC's 2001 breakthrough The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, and the opening of "Keep Watch for the Mines" winks at "Screaming Infidelities," his most iconic song. He has also largely foregone the bombastic production flourishes of his last two albums -- only one song here tops three minutes -- in favor of more intimate arrangements. Sure, there's hurt everywhere, but Carrabba sticks with the pain he knows.

Now Hear This: Dashboard Confessional - "Thick as Thieves" DOWNLOAD MP3

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