Rated | Alphabetical
| Highest Rated 2006
A Blank, A Cipher,
A Vacuum, A Void
Confessional: A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar
Posted: August 18,
Boca Raton-based skate-punk Chris Carrabba has successfully evolved his
emotive, acoustic side project, Dashboard Confessional, to a
TRL-mobilized, full-time gig, as evidenced by last year's surprisingly
successful Unplugged release. Of course, the momentum for the young
singer-songwriter has been building since 2001's
sing-along-to-every-damn-song The Places You've Come to Fear the Most.
A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar, then, is Carrabba's stab at the
big time. He's upgraded the sound by adding a full, genuinely alt-rocking
band, and even tossed in a little faux-falsetto to beef up his raw,
appealingly unpolished vocal pleadings.
As with Carrabba's earlier work, though, the problem with A Mark
is the utter lack of personalized context in which his
heart-on-your-sleeve songs operate. Every cut is a generic accounting of
personal-pronoun Romeos and the ubiquitous "you" they pine for. Carrabba
invests nothing of what could remotely be called a persona in this music
-- thus, in what assuredly is a savvy marketing move, every person
listening can replace the "I" and "you" with whomever he or she wishes.
Talk about covering the entire demographic. For the chivalrous geeks,
Carrabba offers "Hands Down," in which "I" doesn't want anything more than
to simply hold "you." Things have soured on "Rapid Hope Loss", as
evidenced by the sharper chord changes, tense bass lines and dense
drumbeats as "I" assures "you" that "all you got is all you're gonna get".
On the spare, acoustic "Ghost of a Good Thing," "I" assures us he will die for love,
while the clichéd slow-buildup-to-big-power-chords finish on "Morning
Calls" reinforces Carrabba's core message to his legions of lonely-hearts
fans: Stay positive, even when the skies look darkest. Trying to woo a new
"you" on "As Lovers Go," the earnest "I" veers dangerously close to the
syrupy pap-rock musical territory that Air Supply, back in the early '80s,
despoiled for several generations to come.
On the upside, A Mark sports a fuller, if still not particularly
memorable, sound. And Carrabba's lyrical skills have, believe it or not,
improved since Places. There's nothing here as grating as the
melodramatic teen blog entry of "Your hair, it's everywhere/ screaming
infidelities/ and taking its wear," from "Screaming Infidelities." "Bend
and Not Break" even hints at darker intentions (though, to be fair,
Carrabba probably had nothing nearly as sinister in mind): "Careful not to
wake you/ fearing conversation/ it's better just to hold you /and keep you
pacified." The restraining order can't be too far behind, and such menace
adds much needed edge to A Mark, which generally posits an overly
earnest, romance-novel ideal of the male suitor. Aside from being one of
the best sounding songs on A Mark, "Bend and Not Break" proves
Carrabba may sport the potential to explore even murkier relationship
territory down the road -- and that's an encouraging notion, given his
less than insightful songwriting to date.
Regardless of the overall vacuity of the material, Carrabba has found
his niche -- courting a whole new generation of teenagers who desperately
want a soundtrack to their messily convoluted and hyper-dramatized early
romantic years. Those diehards will doubtless devour A Mark, and
take its title to heart. For the rest of us, the album proves little more
than the vapid musings of an emotional cipher, signifying nothing
particularly interesting or relevant.
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