It’s surprising that Dashboard Confessional have missed so much of the reappraisal of 2000s emo, given that they’re among the most frequent proponents of its many tropes. They were, anyway, and maybe the flimsy pop comeback of 2018’s Crooked Shadows was the impetus in avoiding them, but in truth, they’ve always embodied a lot of their genre’s most laughable stereotypes. They’re whiny and cloying, and though Chris Carrabba can sing, he seldom gives an emotional performance that isn’t steeped in impermeable melodrama. Yes, that’s where the fun of emo can be, but Dashboard Confessional’s take on it has always been so sanitised and corporate, like an adult-alternative crossover that’d be hard to take seriously from either side. Credit where it’s due for trying to wholeheartedly commit to that as an older artist then, even if All The Truth That I Can Tell is still ripe for breeding the saccharine, drip-drying fluff that tends to comprise Dashboard Confessional’s work. It’s simply a different flavour this time, as Carrabba’s settled family life now serves as the backdrop for sentiments that run the gamut from generally sweet to a tart experience only comparable to eating whole fistfuls of sugar. It’s no big shock that the latter is more plentiful either, when a delivery comprised primarily of sweetened acoustic guitars is liable to fit the quiet soul-bearing that frequently feels oversold and syrupy. The earnestness and reverence is clearly genuine, as Carrabba recounts an old date with his wife on Sleep In and celebrates his family on Me And Mine, but a great part of that appeal feels tied to his recovery from a motorcycle accident in 2020 and the gratitude to move on from that; separate it from that, and the mawkish mushiness hits with little restraint. There’s a much better balance that comes through in Southbound And Sinking and Pain Free In Three Chords, both of which can still show emotion, but come with a more weathered perspective that benefits an album like this. They’re also among the better displays of songwriting and word choice, an area that Carrabba has arguably been best at in the past, alongside some of the more immediate choruses the album has to offer.
The latter is also among the few full-band efforts on here, which do prove welcome after how limited a mostly acoustic palette can be. That also does feel like the point though, for Carrabba to let his own emotion shine unobstructed, and deal in the restraint that continues to reinforce an older version of Dashboard Confessional (basically, there’s no Cash Cash feature this time, which is a mercy all on its own). In that respect, it’s about as solid as one could hope for, where there’s still a bit of residual grit in the strums of Here’s To Moving On and Southbound And Sinking that can also remain poised. Rarely do Dashboard Confessional pop out with a great instrumental hook or melody though, and it doesn’t make for a tremendously impactful listen overall. Part of that is definitely down to Carrabba himself, when he’ll go into breathier register that makes the likes of Me And Mine or Young seem small while cranking up that repelling saccharine. It’s a cycle that only shines light on the cracks in each element, not to a degree where it feels poorly made, but at the very least, to where it’s made evident how little of note there is here. Outside of the acoustics, there’s the odd additional guitar for support, a bit of atmospheric production and some occasional percussion, foundations that don’t exactly have much fortitude when it comes to supporting an entire body of work. In pieces, and under the right performance circumstances, All The Truth That I Can Tell has its moments and for what it’s trying to be, but that requires very specific criteria that it doesn’t always deliver. Beyond that, it feels as though Carrabba’s artistic mindset is even on a different wavelength most of the time; the soft, fluffy stuff seems to be taking priority, and more power to him for sticking with it, but again, it’s more an update to a side of Dashboard Confessional that’s never been all that great. Still, the good parts sometimes average out to an improvement on its predecessor, for whatever that’s worth.
For fans of: The Rocket Summer, Jack’s Mannequin, Dan + Shay
‘All The Truth That I Can Tell’ by Dashboard Confessional is released on 25th February on AWAL.
Words by Luke Nuttall