Having been a fan of Chris Carrabba’s vehicle Dashboard Confessional since way back in the Swiss Army Romance days, my curiosity was more than piqued to check out his latest full-length effort Dusk And Summer; his first since 2003’s flawed but promising A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar. As with the vein established on A Mark, A Mission; Dashboard continues full steam ahead with the full-band sound they tried out to mediocre enough effect there. I’m happy to report that, on Dusk And Summer, Carrabba sounds more like he did on the fantastic Spider-Man 2 soundtrack piece “Vindicated,” as opposed to his still-getting-his-feet-wet feel of A Mark, A Mission.
I more than anyone am a stalwart for the old days of fully acoustic guitar based Dashboard Confessional records. All through his career, the style of Carrabba’s songs seemed fully intended, and most at home, on nothing more than an acoustic guitar. The simplicity and raw musicality just seemed like the only thing that could do them the right kind of justice; a simple medium for simple songs. But, on Dusk And Summer, a new Dashboard Confessional is to be found.
Over the three years since the release of the stumbling A Mark, A Mission, Carrabba has put together a stellar backing band, and has most importantly honed his abilities to write songs that can be fully, and best, realized with complete instrumentation. Coming from a mostly acoustic singer-songwriter, this is a remarkably realized full band effort; and turns out to be just as enjoyable, if not more enjoyable, than his older acoustic work.
This is the first record that truly stands as a testament that Chris Carrabba really is a talented musician and songwriter, as opposed to just that good looking emo poster boy that was the butt of jokes, and presumed to be enjoyed by only whiny, teenage kids looking for attention. Look no further than the fact that, on the track “So Long, So Long,” Carrabba shares the mic with none other than the Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz to see how far he has come from his emo niche days. If one of the most talented, respected songwriters in music today is willing to work with you, you’ve got to be doing something right. A hint of a more electric incarnation of the ‘Crows can even be felt to some degrees on this record, with the songwriting finally growing into the maturity that you always knew was there, but just below the surface.
As far as highlights go, the first single “Don’t Wait” gives a fairly superficial representation of what’s to be found here. Mid-to-up-tempo songs about the usual Dashboard fare of broken hearts and such, albeit with a bit more maturity. Interspersed among those you’ll find masterworks such as the aforementioned Duritz duet “So Long, So Long,” and the near-heart breaking acoustic title track ballad “Dusk And Summer.” It seems so that, with Dusk And Summer, Dashboard Confessional has found a title that turns out to be quite prophetic. The end of the day has come for the emo poster boy, and the new season is dawning for the respected, immensely talented songwriter that has been hiding in the dust there all along.
The Ritualists – Painted People
The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music
After listening to Painted People by The Ritualists, I was very surprised to learn that this is their debut album. This band shows a maturity in their music that I would not expect from a first album and provides inspirational sounding tracks with ‘reach for the stars’ type of guitar riffs. I hear a modern version of U2 in The Ritualists, along with an influence of Radiohead. Their songs are full, wholehearted post-punk hooks with a lead singer that has a sizeable range.
“Rattles” opens the album, and it’s the type of song that shows their audience that they are here to stay. It has a great build-up of excitement and intensity. The band explains that this song is “A combination of dark, deep-pocketed verses juxtaposed with big, flashy choruses is a key element to tracks”.
“Ice Flower” and “Worthiest One” welcomes an electronic wave to the album and showcases just how impressive lead singer Christian Dryden’s range is. His ability to hit those high notes with such conviction puts my falsetto abilities to shame. “Worthiest One” brings this sort of nostalgic feeling- it’s a rock ballad with a floaty guitar riff.
“She’s The Sun” is a great follow-on from “Worthiest One” as it transfers the mood upwards and directs the music into more of a hypnotic vision, which conveys “the band’s inner Sixties Love Child”. “I’m With The Painted People” has a really relatable background to the song. Dryden felt a larger than life inspiration from people like David Bowie and Simon Le Bon, these artists felt like soulmates, which can be lonely at times. It wasn’t until he ventured out into the clubs of the lower east side of New York which helped him feel comfortable to express his creative vision freely. The song is all about finding like-minded people.
There are hooks galore and catchy choruses in pretty much every song. “With this record, I’ve specifically tried to be anthemic,” admits Dryden. “I’ve always loved going to shows, where immediately after the performance, and even on the ensuing days after, you just can’t help but remember and sing the songs you’ve just heard. It’s almost like a higher form of communication.” The Ritualists play some determined, strong-willed music and Painted People shows hints of variations with different genres explored throughout. They sound motivated and in return have produced motivating music for their listeners.
The Decline – Flash Gordon Ramsay Street
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk
It’s possible that since punk broke through to the mainstream in the mid to late ’90s, listeners outside of Australia think Frenzal Rhomb are the only band to have come from the lucky country. It’s true that during the rise of that Epitaph and Fat Wreck sound, Frenzal Rhomb became the namesake of the genre from Australia. However, Australian punks know that their history stretches long before the release of Survival of the Fattest. From the legendary sounds of The Saints to the rock n’ roll infused punk of Radio Birdman, Australia’s punk rock history is not only rich but very much precedes the genre’s mainstream explosion.
Frenzal Rhomb were another chapter in punk down under and for many, they opened a lot of doors. If not at the very least, proved that there were fertile grounds for new bands to emerge across the vast land. Western Australia’s The Decline formed in 2005 and quickly showed their talent for writing up-tempo melodicore that shred as much as it soared. From their 2010 debut, I’m Not Gonna Lie To You, it was clear that the band were equal parts snotty, urgent, funny, and melodic. Like the Frenzal Rhomb formula, they’ve got all of it in spades with a mean streak of Australianness that is both endearing and extremely relatable. Their latest album is no different.
From the title alone you can tell you’re in for a shedload of fun, and while it’s easy to think that Flash Gordon Ramsay Street is just goofy humor, it’s actually got a lot of pointed commentary too. From the animal-supportin’, veggie-lovin’, attack on meatlovers and meatheads (“Brovine”), to the real-estate market questioning “Smashed Avo”, there’s plenty of current talking points that The Decline run through. Sure, you also get vegan buffalo wing recipes (surprisingly, not the song titled “Bullet With Buffalo Wings”) and a love for The Legend of Zelda, but who says you can’t sing about Marxist theories while talking about your love for Nintendo?
What The Decline get absolutely spot-on is their clinical, unrelenting brand of skate punk; taking plenty of cues from the best of the NOFX / No Fun At All up-tempo, hardcore-derived brand of punk. The hooks on Flash Gordon Ramsey Street are as infectious as horny teens on spring break, highlighted by the endless harmonies on songs like the terrific “It Was Always You” and the call and response male-female vocal attack of “Verge Collection”. Brevity is also key, as the majority of the songs here never overstay their welcome with the longest clocking in at just 3:15 (the wistful closing of “Josh”).
Flash Gordon Ramsey Street is concise, to-the-point, and a furious medley of skate punk urgency that is relevant to young adult life as punks in Australia. Great production values to boot mean you can’t go wrong here.