Dashboard Confessional : MTV Unplugged 2.0

...raising the levels of expectation for the impending new album to obscene levels...

Sometimes it’s hard not to think that Chris Carrabba just needs a good slap. It’s usually when he’s having one of his Ultimate Emo Bloke moments: faced screwed up, thrashing at his acoustic guitar like songwriting’s catharsis is the closest he’ll ever get to masturbation, whining about an ex-girlfriend who didn’t measure up to his high standards. Jesus fuck, you think. Get some perspective, fella. Love and dating isn’t governed by a set of rules. Life just doesn’t work like that.

Except, of course, it does – in America. Carrabba has become a revered cult figure in the States – Stuart Murdoch for the Smallville generation, essentially – precisely because he understands the minutia and potential heartbreak of a dating system with a million pointless rules.

He shouldn’t worry – you can hear how much he’s loved during this seductively ramshackle MTV Unplugged session. He gets an entire two seconds into the first song (‘Swiss Army Romance’) before the crowd start singing along, every word bellowed with the passion of believers spreading The Truth. Simply, Dashboard Confessional inspire with the extreme communal and devotional aspects last seen when The Smiths ruled the indie charts wielding a backpocket of gladioli.

In this respect, then, the Dashboard Confessional of this album are closer to Belle & Sebastian than any of their emo peers. A song like ‘The Best Deceptions’ (“a song about feeling bad and then feeling better,” Carrabba mumbles, all knowing shyness), is built around a shared memory, not so much first love as first betrayal, and is celebrated as such. When the crowd sings “so kiss me hard because this will be the last time I let you”, you know they’re thinking of a formative break up, when they experienced the unhappy laws of dissolving love for the first time.

Whether this all strikes a chord in Britain is another matter entirely. But it’s impossible not to feel affected by the phenomenon in general, the sense that a whole load of Very Important Empathy is going on. And that’s Dashboard Confessional‘s real significance.

As an intro to DC you should look elsewhere, but as an accomplished stopgap it’s miles better than you’d expect from most ‘Unplugged…’ efforts – raising the levels of expectation for the impending new album to obscene levels.

Ian Watson