I've blogged about Dashboard Confessional before, but I want to talk about them again since I've been listening to their new album, Dusk and Summer, a lot lately.
To recap: I like this band's music, own all of their proper albums, have seen them play live and I say all of this with zero irony. Since I was a Further Seems Forever fan at the time when I heard a couple of tracks off of The Swiss Army Romance, I was pulled in by what Chris was doing with this quiet little side project. Well, after the second record, The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, was out for a couple of months, I noticed how fast the now-a-band's popularity spread. Some friends of mine really loved this stuff, but a ton of others just hated this (and continue to hate) this stuff.
I have my theories as to why certain people are so attracted to Chris and why other people are so repulsed by him, but let me get to the bottom of how I feel on the matter. Yes, watching the audience be so mesmerized by Chris on the MTV Unplugged is still weird. Yes, there are plenty of lyrics that can be read as being strictly for the middle/high school crowd. Yes, being around members of their core audience at shows can make me feel old and a tad guilty. Yet the music has always been good, even with the latest, Dusk and Summer.
I like a number of tracks off this album, but I have some misgivings about what I hear in the presentation. A big glaring aspect is the drumming. The band's secret weapon has always been Mike Marsh's drumming. There are drummers that play ahead of the beat and then there's somebody like Mike who speeds over it. However, his playing has always been a great little piece of flair while also complimenting the song. On Dusk and Summer, his playing is as simple as simple drumming gets. There are barely any fills or any fancy playing, so there's this wide open space in the sound.
When I hear this album, I get the feeling these songs were labored over so much that they lost their zest in the process. The beats and feels are simple and so are the melodies, but that doesn't mean there are some memorable songs. The majority of the album is very same-songy, but songs like "Don't Wait," "So Long, So Long" and "The Secret's in the Telling" are really great. In the spots where they take some mild detours from this formula, they are more distracting than welcome.
Overall, Dusk and Summer is a good album for Dashboard fans, but an album that will not make their staunchest critics change their tune. The album feels too safe and restrained whereas their previous record, A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar, was not. That said, I'm not about to toss the record aside as I can't get a number of its songs out of my head.