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Dashboard Confessional screams our infidelities

review by Matthew Webber

Dashboard Confessional, The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most (Vagrant)

Dashboard Confessional singer/songwriter Chris Carrabba dislikes the term "emo," which is short for "emotion," and, more specifically, for the raw, emotional lyrics that typify his brand of modern rock. Recent profiles in Spin and Rolling Stone of Carrabba reported that most of the other artists lumped into the genre find this classification equally ridiculous. Doesn't all music express some kind of emotion? Is the content of these bands really so alien to mainstream music?

While all music is a form of expression, there is something genuine in Carrabba's songs that is absent from the nu-metal and bling-rap offerings that dominate the radio. Just ask the hundreds of Dashboard Confessional fans who pack tiny clubs and sing along to his every word.

It goes without saying that a Dashboard Confessional song bleeds more emotion than any manufactured teen pop smash. The labels of cereal boxes often contain more meaning. But Carrabba even out-emotes other contemporary singer/songwriters noted for their diary-like prose. Instead of relying on metaphors (see the Jewel lyric, "There's a dead end to my left and a burning bush to my right") and cliches (see the whole of Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles"), he uses images to describe exactly how he's feeling. Everything he sees around him reminds him of a girl - and every sensitive guy who's ever been dumped knows how much more heartbreaking the scent of her perfume is than another lame-o ballad with a string arrangement.

It would be easy to dismiss Carrabba as someone who wears his emotions on his sleeve - except he wears them all over his clothes. Songs like the minor radio hit "Screaming Infidelities" are why the People Who Label Music Genres can classify Dashboard Confessional as emo. He sings his lyrics in a voice so pained you can hear it. The sparse acoustic arrangement emphasizes lyrics like: "I'm reading your note over again. There's not a word that I comprehend, except when you signed it 'I will love you always and forever'." You can't help but be sympathetic to the poor guy, unless of course you empathize with him because you remember the last time this happened to you.

As for the song's title, Carrabba sees some girl's hair all over his bed, "screaming infidelities, taking its wear" on him. His ex-girlfriend is dating somebody else, and, even worse, she's making damn sure to rub it in his face. Sadder still, Carrabba can't even hate the girl who broke his heart: "I hope you're as happy as you're pretending." As brokenhearted as he is, his heart is too whole for hate. He knows she isn't trying to be a bitch; it just seems that way when the girl you love likes somebody else.

That's authentic. That's emotion.

If you hate self reflection and can listen to "Nookie" for hours, Carrabba will sound like a whiny little baby. If you think of yourself as an artist, if you know there's someone and something out there for you, if you repeatedly ask the girl who just broke up with you to explain herself and if there's any chance she'll change her mind - everything on The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most will sound like songs you wish you'd written. Whether or not you call yourself "emo."

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