In the early 2000s, emo/pop punk was ruling supreme. Bands like The Ataris and Jimmy Eat World could do no wrong and on a pedestal all of his own stood one beautiful man with sleeves of tattoos and the voice of an heartbroken angel. Chris Carrabba stood alone with an acoustic guitar and a bared soul and cemented himself as one of the leading authorities on the genre. When the mid 2000s came along they faded into pop rock obscurity with the less than critically acclaimed Dusk and Summer and then they fell off my radar.
Now, nine years after they last put out a record, the brand new album Crooked Shadows has magically appeared on Spotify. Dashboard are a band that got me through many a tough time and heartache as a teen and young adult so I’m extremely curious to see if they recaptured that MTV Unplugged era quality or if this is just an ash can record.
‘Grower’ is how I think I’d adequately describe this album. On first try, standout tracks like the opening We Fight, Heart Beat Here and Open My Eyes (with guest instrumentation by the excellent Lindsay Stirling of YouTube fame) struck the chords I was hoping this would hit and sound classically Dashboard enough for me to instantly like it. The rest of the album I felt was too poppy, reminded me a little of The Killers and soured the overall experience for me. I could say that and end this review right here but then a funny thing happened to me. I picked the album up again. And again and again and now it’s been on constant rotation for about a week. I still think it’s incredibly poppy, and if you couldn’t ever stand the extreme end of the emo pop punk spectrum there is nothing here to win you over, but if you’re the kind of person still wearing their Jimmy Eat World tee with pride then maybe this album will creep up on you too.
As I mentioned, We Fight, Heart Beat Here and Open My Eyes are more in a classic Dashboard vein. The latter of the two being very acoustically focused and soulful. The former being a Mark, Mission, Brand, Scar era full band affair which is breathy and serious, building to a shouty crescendo in the chorus.
Other tracks on the album like Catch You and About Us are much more standard poppy fare and initially just served as a bridge between the songs I preferred but eventually I found enjoyable in their own right. Not everything hits home and there are tunes like the title track that fall a little flat and are forgettable. All in all it’s a mixed bag, with enough for me to enjoy as a background album but it’s not the triumphant return to form that other bands have enjoyed recently – which I’m fully willing to admit is in large part due to the high regard teenage me holds the band. If you liked most of their newer stuff then you’ll probably enjoy everything on offer but if you live in those golden years then it might be more of a test on your love for them.
All in all not a bad album and definitely something worth some attention especially if you’re previously a fan. But if your tastes in punk can’t push into the poppiest side of the emo spectrum then avoid at all costs, there’s nothing for you here.
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This review was written by Dan Peters.