[17 January 2012]
This, the first album from Dashboard Confessional’s main man released under his own name, is a hodgepodge collection of cover songs from many different artists, reaching across a wide spectrum of genres. All the songs, however, still carry that Dashboard sound to them. Some work and some don’t, but it is an interesting listen nevertheless.
The opening track, Big Star’s classic “I’m in Love with A Girl”, still sounds a bit like Big Star but it doesn’t have the same yearning quality as the original. Carrabba’s screechy voice, while tailor made for his own songs, does not have the power to grace cover songs by such sacred bands. But on the other hand, “The Cape”, a cover of a song written by legendary folk singer Guy Clark, is one of the better cover songs I’ve heard all year, but it doesn’t denigrate the song’s value in any way. On this track, he actually sounds like a good folk singer, so it may be something he should try more in the future.
The Justin Townes Earle cover, “Mama’s Eyes”, just doesn’t work because there are certain songs that can be sung by only one person and that’s the person who wrote the song in the first place. The very interesting Archers of Loaf cover, “Web in Front”, is another interesting experiment that is taken down by Carrabba’s often-grating voice. But the album picks up drastically with the Long Winters’ track “The Commander Thinks Aloud”. Behind a very good beat, he is able to take the song and stake his own claim for it and once he does, he doesn’t let go. With another folk cover, this time by Cory Branan, “Tall Green Grass”, it becomes clear that Carrabba is feeling more comfortable playing and singing folk and that’s where the album should have stayed, but …
Carrabba’s cover of the Dandy Warhols’ classic “We Used to Be Friends” just falls apart because it comes across sounding like an emo version of indie rock and, let’s face it, that’s just not something anybody really wants to hear. Then there’s his version of The Replacements’ “Skyway”, which only makes the original that much better although the use of mandolin in the background does give the song a nice touch.
Hitting the home stretch, the version of John Prine’s “Long Monday” is interesting but it just sounds bland and lifeless, and maybe it’s because at this point, Carrabba was trying too hard to emote and forgot about the overall emotion of the song. It’s a shame because otherwise, it’s a really good song but under Carabba’s voice and background, it just doesn’t come off like it should.
The final track, a farewell to R.E.M. of sorts, that old chestnut “It’s the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” is an absolute travesty. For starters, he slows the song down to where it sounds like a folk song, he drags it out to over six minutes long and worst of all, you can understand every word. That’s not in the spirit of the original song which is supposed to feel chaotic, unintelligible and fast as hell. To have done something like this to such a classic just feels like absolute sacrilege, and in this writer’s opinion, it is one of the dumbest cover versions I’ve ever heard.
While some songs come across as disasters, some are minor gems, but overall, if he had decided to release this as an EP of four or five tracks, that would have been perfectly acceptable. But as it stands, this is one of the most disappointing records I’ve heard all year.