Chris Carrabba is famous for having his heart broken. Several times. The raw emotions in famous songs such as “Hands Down” and “Screaming Infidelities” suggest that his ex-girlfriend physically cut his heart out, put it in a blender, used it to make a mixed drink and sipped said drink while kissing his best friend. In his latest album, “The Shade of Poison Trees,” being heartbroken remains a common theme, but the songs are much more shallow.
Dashboard’s previous album, “Dusk and Summer,” was largely criticized because the drums and guitars overpowered the lyrics. In an attempt to appease old fans, the band has returned to its acoustic roots. Although the prospect of more acoustic songs may heighten fans’ expectations, “The Shade of Poison Trees” hardly compares to the meaningful, heartfelt singles from Dashboard’s earlier albums.
The album only lasts for about half an hour. Almost all the songs are under three minutes, which means that most of the ideas are fairly underdeveloped. The lyrics become repetitive and leave the listener yearning for more information. In the song “The Rush,” Carrabba endlessly repeats the lyrics, “And I’ll know I’m alive.” Even though these words attempt to empower the listener, the constant echo of this sentence has exactly the opposite effect because listeners will immediately fall into a stupor.
On its fifth album, Dashboard seems to have lost any sense of creativity. The lyrics are overly simplistic and hardly convey anything distinctive. It’s just the same old crap. In the song, “Thick as Thieves,” the chorus implores listeners to “just keep your mouth shut, keep your guard up.” Vapid words have replaced the metaphors that used to make Dashboard compelling. Carrabba seems equally bored with the material and his delivery often sounds forced.
The songs are acoustic pop ballads, but the emotional content of the lyrics doesn’t match the music — the listener can sense the tension between depressing lyrics and upbeat instrumental selections. And the band’s experiments with other genres yield even stranger results. The track “Fever Dreams” uses instruments that could almost classify it as a poor excuse for techno.
As a whole, “The Shade of Poison Trees” is extremely unsatisfying. However, fans searching for new material should listen to the title track — the song closely resembles older ballads and recalls the emotionally driven delivery that characterized Carrabba’s earlier work. Buying the complete album would be a waste of money, but this track is worth listening to, if only to remind listeners how passionate Dashboard’s lyrics once were.
The band has advertised its latest album as a return to simplicity, a man and his guitar, but ultimately the songs have become trite and cliche. Instead of returning to their roots, Dashboard Confessional should renew their purpose and give emo boys a new reason to wet their overly tight pants.