Music News

True Confessional

"I don't think we're anybody's second-favorite band," says Chris Carrabba, the emo dreamboat who sits behind the wheel of Dashboard Confessional. "We're either somebody's most-favorite or least-favorite band" -- and those who fit into the former category can get awfully obsessive. "It's intense, and there's an inherently scary nature to things that are intense, especially when they're personal things," he allows. "There's a certain element of 'This has gotten bigger than it was intended.'"

True enough. When Carrabba created Dashboard Confessional in the late '90s, it was supposed to be a creative outlet for autobiographical compositions that didn't suit Further Seems Forever, his main group at the time. Instead, the solo project quickly outgrew its modest origins; 2003's The Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar even topped the Billboard charts. This success rapidly transformed Carrabba into an MTV pinup, and he remains a network darling to this day. He chose the music for a recent episode of Laguna Beach -- the first artist granted such a privilege.

Musically, Dusk and Summer, released earlier this year, is the showiest and most anthemic Dashboard disc, but the tunes' words don't always follow suit. Take "Stolen," which turns on the prosaic phrase "You have stolen my heart." As Carrabba concedes, "It's a very simple chorus, and you only have to listen to a few of my songs to realize I don't usually go for simple choruses. I remember saying to my bandmates, 'Here's the problem: I'm a bit afraid of this lyric.' And they looked at me like I had two heads. I wasn't exactly lambasted by my pals, but they did say something like, 'You're allowed to do that if you're doing it honestly and if what you're saying comes honestly from your heart.'"

No wonder ladies love cool Chris -- and it sounds as if the new tracks he's recording will only endear him further to the females he thrills on a regular basis. The earliest Dashboard tunes were, as he puts it, "journal-esque. Those feelings just spilled out of me. And the three or four songs I've written so far hearken back to that earlier material.

"As a writer, you're allowed to use a certain veil to serve the song, not to save yourself," he continues. "It happened to work for those early songs that the veil was completely pulled away, and I don't think that there's a veil over the new stuff. Or, if there is, it's a bit of a thinner one."

Some reviewers get irritated by such naked emotionalism, and Carrabba understands why. "When you're exposing a raw nerve, of course it's going to be polarizing," he maintains. "You're not even comfortable with it when you're doing it, so how could you expect everybody who hears it to be? But -- how can I say this without being insulting? -- it's not made for music critics. It's made for the people who love our music, and if I could pick an audience, I'd pick mine. I'm certainly glad they picked us."

As scary as they might be.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts