Boyish Intensities: Dashboard Confessional’s Dusk and Summer

Reviewed by Daniel Garrett

Dashboard Confessional, Dusk and Summer
Produced by Don Gilmore
Mixed by Andy Wallace
Vagrant Records, 2006

Song list
Don’t Wait
Reason to Believe
The Secret’s in the Telling
Stolen
Rooftops and Invitations
So Long, So Long
Currents
Slow Decay
Dusk and Summer
Heaven Here

When I first heard Dusk and Summer, I was not impressed, thinking it merely old clichés claimed by a new generation, but when I listened to it again, I found that I could not dismiss it. All the songs on Dusk and Summer are written by singer Chris Carrabba, and they are performed by his band, which includes him on guitar and keyboards, and Scott Schoenbeck on bass guitar, John Lefler on guitar and keyboards, and Mike Marsh on drums and other percussion. The first song, “Don’t Wait,” has a repetitive rhythm, and a drawn-out, even howling, vocal, not much melody, and a sudden shift in sound level—from moderate to low, then up again. “Reason to Believe,” a song about the human body, seems a barrage of attractive noise with an anguished vocal, with little sensuality in lyric or vocal. (Is the uptempo arrangement intended to subvert solipsism?) I imagine that identification with the singer and appreciation for the sonic force of the music are the song’s appeal. I like the sound of “The Secret’s in the Telling,” as there’s more melody in it, and intimacy is indicated in the lyrics and the singing seems more controlled. It seems the song of a young man.

“And from the ballroom floor, we are in celebration /one good stretch before our hibernation /our dreams assured and we all will sleep well” are lines from “Stolen,” which has a soft, contemplative sound, full of simple declarative sentences repeated—with the last word unsaid, creating drama—and then the last word is spoken. With the care it is given, with its fine detail, harmony, order, passion, and thought, the song rises to the level of beauty.

Good artists are so articulate, so expressive, that they not only dazzle and inform, they stay close to the human urge to know, to say, to do, and you feel as if the urge is your own: and you are inspired to feel, to think, to express, to create.

There’s a calculated roughness to “Rooftops and Invitations.” It’s interesting that the first songs on the album are fast and loud, and the later songs begin to be slower, more quiet, as if a point was being made with the first songs (the point?—the proof of masculinity).

“Currents” has light, tender singing and self-consciously poetic lyrics. The vocal is nearly androgynous.

A returning soldier is welcomed home, but he feels uncertain, fearful, and guilty in “Slow Decay,” which I think has genuine drama, some truth, and is a good song. The soldier, a son, is told, “Your injuries aren’t mortal wounds /The only thing that’s killing you /Is what you saw /And what you couldn’t stop.” The son answers, “And I didn’t hate those I killed /But they’re all dead now.”

The title song “Dusk and Summer” is a memory of romance.

About the reviewer: Daniel Garrett has written about music for AllAboutJazz.com, Hyphen, IdentityTheory.com, Option, and PopMatters.com, including commentary on Sade, the Afghan Whigs, Tupac Shakur, Kitchens of Distinction, Matthew Sweet, and Annie Lennox; and his commentaries on Lizz Wright, Sinead O’Connor and Al Green have appeared on the web pages of The Compulsive Reader. Daniel Garrett has also written about art, books, business, film, and politics, and his work has appeared inThe African, American Book Review, Art & Antiques, The Audubon Activist, Cinetext.Philo, Film International, Offscreen, Rain Taxi, The Review of Contemporary Fiction, and World Literature Today.

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