Anyone who pegs Dashboard Confessional frontman Chris Carrabba as a sad pompadoured sack based on heartbreakers like "Again I Go Unnoticed" and "Screaming Infidelities" should get ready to change their perception of him.
His new album, A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar, portrays the man tagged by many as a poster boy for emo in a mood that contradicts his conventionally accepted disposition.
"I'm actually excited about the fact that it's a happier record," Carrabba said. "If it dispels those conceptions that I'm like, ultra mopey, that would be great because anybody who's met me can tell you that that's [not all true]. Everybody's like that sometimes."
The time Carrabba was ultra mopey was during the two and a half weeks when he wrote and recorded his last LP, 2001's The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, an entire album of lost-love laments that is one of the most beautifully wretched peeks at a tortured soul in recent memory.
"That's what earned me that reputation," he said of his standing as rock's coolest softie, "and I never really shrunk from it because that's what the record was about. But this record is a fuller picture of who I am as a person. Just a wider spectrum."
Consider that the LP's first single, "Hands Down," is about falling in love on the happiest day of his life and it's obvious Carrabba has undergone an emotional sea change. The sound of the album, too, has evolved from Places' bare-boned approach to match Carrabba's bared soul. The single, for which a video was filmed Wednesday in New York by director Nzingha Stewart (Lumidee, Common), first appeared acoustically on 2001's four-song EP So Impossible. The new version's fully realized sound begins with a chugging melody that converges with layers of scratchy guitars and drums that punctuate on cue. The warmth of "As Lovers Go," the dynamically structured "I Am Missing," and the rock guitars on "Hey Girl" provide further evidence that Dashboard Confessional are a full-fledged band.
But those who've seen Dashboard perform in the last few years, most recently with Beck at the start of the summer ([article id="1459485"]"Beck, Dashboard, White Stripes Proving 'Less Is More' "[/article]), have known that for some time. Carrabba backed by drummer Mike Marsh, guitarist Johnny Leffler and bassist Scott Schoenbeck have over time developed the acoustic studio versions of songs from The Places and 2000's debut Swiss Army Romance into well-rounded ramblers better suited for the stage. So the band's new sound on record shouldn't come as a shock to longtime fans.
"Some of the really simple songs became slightly more intricate," he explained. "Like, the song 'The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most' was just a single guitar line and a vocal, but then Johnny added an intertwining guitar part and there's a counter melody that makes it fuller. When we made The Places we had rehearsed as a band maybe three different times, period. ... We've come a long way from that."
Understanding Dashboard's evolution of both sound and sentiment helps A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar's clumsy title make sense. The four-noun name came to Carrabba while contemplating the meaning of Dashboard Confessional on a plane (he had left his CD player at home) (see [article id="1459078"]"New Dashboard Confessional Album 'More Dynamic,' Singer Says"[/article]).
"[Dashboard] started out as a mark against me because it wasn't so popular to do that [kind of music] in the scene I was from," explained the singer about his hardcore roots. "Then it was like a mission of mine to just persevere and just get through that.
"Then it became a [situation] where it felt like I had been branded in a marketing sense," he continued. "This is what the whole music is, not who I am necessarily. It's what I do. And the scar … I would have been scarred by that if I had decided to rest my morals and make the same record over and over, which would have been easier for me to do. But it just would have buried me."
Dashboard Confessional (with MxPx, Brand New and Vendetta Red) tour dates, according to Interscope Records: