REVIEW: Dashboard Confessional – Alter The Ending

DCcover_final300Artist: Dashboard Confessional
Album: Alter The Ending
Genre: Mature Pop Rock
Label: Interscope

Chris Carabba has been making waves as the heart-on-his-sleeve singer-songwriter-mastermind behind Dashboard Confessional since the release of A Swiss Army Romance in 2000. Before that, he was amongst the emo pioneers with his work in then relatively unknown Further Seems Forever. Personally, I’ve been following Carabba and his work throughout his entire career and having said that, I cannot begin to explain the timidness I had toward listening to the group’s new album Alter The Ending.

I try to always stay current with the changing trends in music. Even if it’s not my style, I’ve always done my best to make myself try and see what people find enjoyable about as many genres of music as I could, but I must admit I’ve always heavily favored the earlier work of Dashboard Confessional. It’s not even the expansion of sound over the past few records that has created the sour taste in my mouth, but simply the overall quality of songwriting. Following the completely hit and miss Dusk and Summer, I was in a stage of turmoil with my Dashboard love, but I decided to fight my notions and put the record on to see what Carabba and crew have to offer this time.

Within the first minutes of the opener, “Get Me Right,” it’s obvious that something has changed in the world of Chris Carabba since the last time we heard from him. There’s this since of maturity in every lick that comes through the speakers both lyrically and musically. The subject matter, especially on the opener and the following, “Until Morning,” is no longer girl-centric, but it seems Carabba has finally fully embraced his adult life and is writing to that affect. I was instantly back into everything I’d ever loved about Dashboard: the guitar work wasn’t overly difficult, but seemed perfect for each poetic line that Carabba conveyed and all at once I knew I was in for something I didn’t expect.

I listened on and cringed as the mainstream track gone wrong, “Belle of the Boulevard” rolled by. Not once since its release have I been into the track, it jsut feels way too generic for a musician of this caliber. Luckily, the pounding drums and belting vocals of the title track pulled me back into the record. There’s something about the Carabba’s vocals that are simply timeless on this and every DC release. Even now in his 30’s he sounds like the voice of the youth and that’s one attribute seems to be going nowhere in the foreseeable future.

While most of the album does a fairly decent job of steering clear of “woe is me” love songs, Carabba hits the nail on the head with the moving “Even Now.” This simple song reverberates the emotions of nearly anyone whose gone through a break up or emotional rough patch with a loved one in the past 50 years. For some reason, even now, a decade later, DC has the ability to make everyone feel the same way about love and life with just an acoustic guitar, some words, and the occasional drum line. It’s engaging and deep without going into cliche territory and in this day and age, that’s really saying something in terms of acoustic ballads. Though Dashboard did lay the blueprints for most the emerging acoustic acts, that doesn’t give them any “get out of jail” passes for progression.

Outside of the expected, Dashboard steps out of the box on tracks like “No Motion” to add new elements [in this case a thick synth line] to their sound. The writing works perfectly with most these attempts [though the folk heavy “I Know You” feels a bit flat] and leaves you please with the results, just not floored.

Though Alter The Ending shows Chris Carabba finding his footing after slipping into a bit of a creative funk on the last release, it’s still not Dashboard’s A-game. I feel like these last two records both showcase a band unsure of its footing and that’s fine because development is key, but its depressing to still be getting albums with handfuls of “meh” tracks this deep into a career. Dashboard did take a smart marketing move by recording the entire album acoustically for a bonus disc for those willing to purchase the deluxe edition [which most die hard fans will], but its simply not enough to wow me. I love you DC, but I’m not sure things will ever be as great as they once were.

Score: 7/10

James Shotwell
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75 Responses to “REVIEW: Dashboard Confessional – Alter The Ending”

  1. Steph says:

    I agree with parts of this and disagree with other parts. I don’t feel like dashboard confessional is trying to be mainstream but I do feel like this album is more going back to their ‘roots’ especially with the song ‘even now’ Really great album in my opinion!

  2. Lupe says:

    This Album is amazing!! the Deluxe Version gives you a chance to experience old Dashboard and the newer sounds…I have never heard anything from D/C that I didnt love! So heres another hit Album for them!!

  3. dkraynick says:

    I do not agree… i think this cd is better musically…Mike Marsh on the drums is amazing…keep it up DC

  4. Tyler says:

    this cd is amazing i love the beat. its just so lively! its one of those cds where every song is amazing, and you just cant stop listening to it!

  5. stephanie M says:

    “Alter the Ending” has been one of the biggest highlights of my musical year, once again DC kills with heavy vocals and amazing lyrics. I like how they go out of their comfort zone and come up with new sounds like “Get Me Right”.

    waiting for the album is no let down.

  6. Luz says:

    This new CD, is amazing!,
    so i do not agree, i love their old
    stuff A LOT!, and i don’t
    believe they’ve change much at all,
    (= ..
    to me its still the same
    dashboard confessional that i love<3

  7. Polie says:

    I just finished listening to Alter the Ending and I love it! Something that’s great about Dashboard is that they keep evolving, and in my opinion getting better and better.

  8. Nick Darington says:

    I completely agree that you can hear the maturity in his song writing. I think it makes for a fresh sound that’s a little out there, but still very easy to listen to. The melodies on this album cut through so cleanly, which has been the case on all previous DC albums as well.

  9. This reminds me of something that my mom pretty much always said…
    Then it’s probably not appropriate right now…

  10. Mark Lewis says:

    The best Dashboard Confessional album yet. I’m currently on my third listen through and each song is uniquely Dashboard which makes it an instant classic. The song’s are full of Chris’ usual passion and soul and are beautifully arranged. Purchase this album immediately!

  11. cassandra says:

    i have to almost full heartedly agree with this review. i think this album is great, but i’m not in love with it, as i have been with past records. I appreciate the new sound, and the maturity of it all. Lyrically, on some songs, like Get Me Right, it was flat out poetry. On others, i felt it was lacking. Mostly to repetitive, like Don’t Wait, seemed as though they could have been written in 5 minutes.
    Vocally, Carrabba has signature pipes. But, i felt like i was missing that passionate strain, that could have made a couple songs feel so much more passionate. Like hell on the throat. I’ve heard a live recording and it had it, that strain. (the best way i can think to word it) On the album it wasn’t there.
    So all in all, i like the album. But if i wasn’t such a die hard fan this wouldn’t draw me in, and make me one.

  12. Rachel says:

    This album is beautiful and poetic. Like other albums, it manages to capture a certain essence of being young, in love, getting hurt, and finding yourself without being depressing. My favorite song today is “Everybody Learns from Disaster”. I happen to enjoy the acoustic songs more than the others.

  13. I do not entirely agree with this review. Personally, I found a great attachment to “Dusk and Summer” because of the timing in which is was release and the manner in which Chris’ songwriting had developed. Obviously I still speculate about the apparent change in DC’s style, but that doesn’t make any song “generic”.

    I am a bit put out by the fact that many of these songs sound more mainstream, as if DC is attempting to appeal to a poppier, more air-headed audience, especially on tracks such as “The Motions”. I do not highly approve of that song because of its seemingly cheaper repetition in the chorus, but I still respect Chris and the band no matter what choice they decide to make.

    “Belle”, “Blame” and the last 3 songs have grown on me to the point of not being able to listen to the CD in its entirety. That’s a good sign, right?

    As a die hard, I will live Dashboard Confessional, not just live with them.

  14. NAINEEASELT says:

    Hey there Everybody im further here and ethical figured it introduce myself in preference to i jumped into any conversations.

  15. Emily says:

    Personally, I love this album. I may be a little biased considering Dashboard Confessional is my favorite band, but I’ve gotten some of my friends to listen to their latest album and they’ve loved it, which surprised me in a few cases. This may not sound like their first album, but I sort of like that about DC. It’s like every album has its own style or theme, but anyone can tell it’s still DC. I love that about them. They never sound like anyone else. And if all their albums sounded like the first few, I think people would get bored with it. Overall, this album is great –> especially the deluxe edition. I would most definitely recommend it!

  16. Jess says:

    I’m going to have to disagree with this review. This is one of their best albums yet! songs are incredible, lyrics are beautiful! I mean yeah they’ve changed a bit from years ago, but they’re still the same amazing band that they will alway be! love Alter the Ending!!!! :)

  17. Jess Von Ehlke says:

    Alter is the best thing I’ve heard in a long time. Something that’s great about DC is that they keep evolving and in my opinion getting better and better.

  18. cathie says:

    I think this is a bit harsh. Yes, we all have favorites and those that don’t touch us like we hoped, but this is just almost brutal. ATE shows growth and is solid. I think people need to relax.

  19. Manda says:

    somebody needs to find an editor. funny that you speak of cliches then use one in the very same sentence.

    as for the review of the album, everyone is entitled to his own opinion. if you like dashboard, you’re gonna love the album.

  20. Lindsey says:

    After reading the review, I have to disagree. I love the album (both the electric and acoustic versions) and feel they both are classic DC. I think the album is a perfect start for new fans just discovering DC and will make any long time fan just as happy.

  21. Alana says:

    Alter the Ending is the best album I’ve heard in a while. I’ve listen to it almost everyday since I bought it. I really love the acoustic songs, My cousin loved it instantly when she heard it.

  22. Cortnee says:

    I don’t know how much I agree with this review. For one, I absolutely love “Belle of the Boulevard.” I personally think it’s a very beautiful song and in no way generic. While I agree that DC has definitely changed over the years, I think that Alter The Ending most definitely represents the band’s “A Game.” Sure, it’s different from some of the other albums, but that’s one of the things that I find so great about Dashboard Confessional. Each album has it’s own feel but it’s always has that unique Dashboard quality that we’ve all grown to love. For anyone who is unsure about buying the album: you need to get it. It’s as simple as that.

  23. Taylor says:

    I have to say I thought this album was, although good, not completely up to Dashboard’s potential. I love dashboard, and A Mark, A Mission, A Brand, A Scar is one of my favorite albums, but it seems like it wasn’t fully Dashboard.

  24. I hope dashboard confessional can play here in our country there are lots of pinoys fans that are waiting for them.

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