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Various Artists, Punk Goes Acoustic (Fearless)
The latest installment in California-based Fearless Records' "Punk Goes..." series could be called "Punk Goes Dashboard Confessional". Following on the heels of Punk Goes Metal and Punk Goes Pop, West Coast pop-punk's leading bands have gotten together for Punk Goes Acoustic, a record with nary an amplifier in sight. The result is a collection of 20 songs representing the worst of what "emo" has come to mean by pop-punk bands such as the Ataris, Finch, Piebald, Coalesce and Midtown. What many of these groups fail to recognize is that Dashboard's appeal lay in Chris Carrabba's evocative lyrics as much as his acoustic riffing. When Finch translates its "Letters to You" into the stripped-down format, the chorus of "I want you to know that I miss you, that I miss you so" is glaring in its un-Carrabba-like drabness. Several bands here include drums, seemingly as unaware as Carrabba was on his last two albums that such instrumentation undermines the intimacy the acoustic format can convey. And all that need be said about Taking Back Sunday's contribution is its god-awful title: "Cute Without the E (Cut From the Team)". Yet a few highlights hit upon the emotional honesty that made acoustic pop-punk popular in the first place. For example, under-sexed 17-year-olds everywhere can rejoice in the melodic, angst-ridden catharsis of the Starting Line's "Playing Favorites". If you like the bands listed here and prefer The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most to Swiss Army Romance, you will like this compilation. Meanwhile, the rest of the world will make fun of you. But that's what punk is all about, isn't it?