In 2002, Chris Carrabba performed on MTV Unplugged 2.0, the in-studio audience wept and sang along with every fiber of their teenaged being, tastemakers took note, and mainstream audiences learned what all this “emo” fuss was about. Three albums later (including last year’s painstakingly produced, full-band-backed, non-charting Dusk and Summer), the former Further Seems Forever frontman is itching to recapture some of that religious-experience furor of his earnest, acoustic-troubadour days.
The sweet, soaring melodies of “Fever Dreams,” “The Widows Peak” and the title track are on par with any of Carrabba’s past triumphs, but overall Poison’s lyrics—and more importantly, the emotions—feel forced. Plenty of lovelorn laments hearken back to 2000 debut The Swiss Army Romance, but instead of flawlessly capturing the immediate, all-consuming pain of early heartache, Carrabba mourns shattered Hollywood dreams in “Where There’s Gold ...” and calls out a scene-maneuvering prep-school phony in “Matters of Blood and Connection.”
It’s by no means a full return, plucky optimism, diary-ripped secrets and all; this Dashboard Confessional is jaded and somewhat out of touch with its rapidly maturing, blog-frenzied young-adult audience. Despite its best intentions, Poison merely offers a taste of bitter nostalgia for a time when the heart ruled all, and not much more.
The Shade of Poison Trees