Call me old fashioned, but I take my Emo straight.
That's why I got excited when I first learned that Dashboard Confessional's
latest, The Shade of Poison Trees, would be a return to its acoustic
roots. Of course, what we get instead is more of the same; The Shade of
Poison Trees takes the elements of their breakthrough 2000 album The
Swiss Army Romance and churns out what could easily be that album's leftover
Maybe I've just grown out of this Emo rock thing, but The Shade of Poison
Trees doesn't have much to offer. The album sticks to the diary confessional
lyrics, and even uses some of the same guitar riffs that have been run into the
ground by Dashboard Confessional and their corporate rock clones. Case in point:
"Keep Watch for the Mines" starts out with a guitar riff reminiscent of
"Screaming Infidelities," and "Little Bombs," sounds a bit too familiar as well.
The album starts out with "Where There's Gold," and Christopher Carrabba
declares "Step on the stage, the lights, the praise / the curtain calls and the
big parade." A great start to the album and the song's not that bad either.
"Where There's Gold" is the first indication of Dashboard Confessional's return
to the stripped down, unplugged sound. But from then on, the music starts to
sound the same. "Fever Dreams," for example, resorts to the cheesy indie-pop
drum track heavy guitar strumming on beat, with lyrics like "fever dreams / they
can only haunt you / 'till the fever breaks." What?
Of course, being an Emo album and all, the tracks are awfully short. The longest
track on the album clocks in at a whopping 2 minutes 58 seconds, and the album
only has 12 tracks. At first listen, you'll get so lost in the droning guitar
work that before you know it, it'll be all over. It feels more like an EP than a
Granted, it's not all bad. Songs such as "I Light My Own Fires" and "Clean
Breaks" make use of some beautiful guitar work, even if they are buried beneath
the other less than stellar tracks. On "The Rush," a muted guitar strum with
keyboard leads accentuates a full band sound, and the syncopation is spot on.
Even the title track, "The Shade of Poison Trees," utilizes some beautiful
sounds with an easily accessible guitar riff.
But lyrically, The Shade of Poison Trees is business as usual. On "The
Shade of Poison Trees," Carrabba commands his minions to "follow just one
desire," but questions "is there time?" I don't know, you tell me. On "Thick as
Thieves," Carrabba wants to know "would it kill you to breathe?…You've got my
council thick as thieves." It's nothing revolutionary, just the usual
self-conscious confessions of a tortured soul.
While The Shade of Poison Trees is not Dashboard Confessional's best
effort to date, it has its moments. It is certainly the type of album that fans
would love, and is a good introduction to Dashboard Confessional's signature
sound. While it may not make this reviewer's top ten list, it could make a great
stocking stuffer this holiday season. And it's still on my iPod, so I guess
that's a start.