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Picks and Pans Review: A Mark, a Mission, a Brand, a Scar

updated 08/25/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/25/2003 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Dashboard Confessional (Vagrant)
Critic's Choice

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With his bittersweet breakthrough, 2001's The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most, Dashboard's one-man band Chris Carrabba became the poster boy for emo, a cathartic, lyric-driven brand of pop-punk. On this accomplished effort, Carrabba adds a crackerjack three-piece back-up band for a fuller rock sound that propels his acoustic earnestness to even greater heights. With his open, expressive tenor, Carrabba imbues the first-love anthem "Hands Down" with a joyful nostalgia. Elsewhere, the melancholy "Carve Your Heart Out Yourself" questions the resilience of a hopeless optimist: "Dig your ditch deep enough/To keep you clear of the sun." But the standout is the hushed, lovely "Bend and Not Break," which showcases the direct, confessional lyrics that drive this album: "Try to understand/There is an old mistake/That fools will make/And I'm the king of them." BOTTOM LINE: Hits the Mark

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