Mellow Emo-Rockers Put Pity in Your Party

    Dashboard Confessional
    Alter the Ending
    Vagrant
    4/10

    CaptureIs it just me, or does Dashboard Confessional make nothing but breakup albums?

    Emo songsmith Chris Carrabba has always been sentimental, but Alter the Ending takes it one step further for a never-ending lament of relationships gone bad, with a track for every new and bitter ending imaginable.

    Lead single “Belle of the Boulevard” tries for clever and sweetcheeked, but fails miserably at the tear-jerking sentiment it tries far too hard to evoke. The best Confessional can offer us is the brilliant realization that “life is always hard,” contrived loveliness dribbling from a soft guitar, one incessant piano chord and whispery backup that grows laughably earnest at the chorus. Falling far short of the lost-love ballad it so badly wants to be, it’s becomes another one of those weepy tunes you listen to out of obligation once (and only once) after a breakup with the not-so-special someone you didn’t like that much to begin with.

    If “Boulevard” was for the one you’re glad is gone, “Get Me Right” is for the one that got away: the breakup that was completely your fault, that you can’t stop beating yourself up over. There’s nothing like an oddly pretty, repetitive melody combined with breathy, hurting lyrics alluding to Jesus and sinners to make selfcrucifixion all the more satisfying. It’s one of Ending’s few solid cuts, showing off a little virtuoso on the ’ments and the striking melody of Carrabba singing “ri-i-i-ght” with surprising vocal range.

    “I Know About You” is a jaunty stalker anthem to soundtrack the vindication of having known all along your significant other was cheating. Carrabba’s hyperactive pace makes the song catchy and nearly happy — until you listen to the lyrics and realize it’s just a bummer testament to all those fellow paranoid exes out there.

    Just to throw us for a loop, the album’s title track tells of a relationship that can “still go on,” even if Carrabba can’t resist throwing in the pessimistic prediction that the worst is still to come. But don’t worry: This optimistic slip-up is balanced by plenty of other faux tragedies for the perfect pity party for you, Ben & Jerry and Dashboard. “Alter the Ending” is just a faint, dismissable glimmer of hope in a cesspool of pseudo-despair, just right for the dwelling.

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