The Swiss Army Romance
The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most
I had intentions of choosing only one album for this article, but when it comes to Dashboard, that’s impossible. I got into Swiss Army and Places around the same time, as they were released back-to-back in 2000 and 2001 respectively. I remember thinking for perhaps the first time ever, somebody “got” me. Chris Carrabba had so eloquently infiltrated my adolescent mind, collected the broken bits of bewilderment and misery within, and set them to music – good music at that, with undeniably poetic lyrics.
Swiss Army showcased what a fabulous storyteller Carrabba is; each track weaved seamlessly into the next. As a hopeless romantic, I took the album title literally and would often picture a couple in my mind – the soldier off at war, the lonely bride at home – and how desperate they must have been to see each other again. Can’t you feel their longing in “A Plain Morning”?
While it doesn’t quite match my dreamt-up, long distance imagery, how perfect is “Screaming Infidelities”? That song IS high school to me. I pretty much always wished I was making out with anyone (coworker at Foodtown, cute boy in class, hot guy in band), and my super long hair was truly everywhere. A favorite track to chant, for sure.
“The Sharp Hint of New Tears,” aside from being a brilliant song title, is another teenage struggles anthem. Night driving alone was one of my favorite activities as a young lass, especially in my first car – my dad’s 1991 Chevy Camaro. Flying down Phalanx Road, mulling over lost loves that never began, confessing my confusion – that, my friends, was real life, and Carrabba understood.
“The Swiss Army Romance” takes on new meaning today with lyrics like, “Youth’s the most unfaithful mistress, still we forge ahead to miss her.” We did grow up fast, didn’t we? And I miss the early days of Stars and Scars regularly. I miss my youth and all the excitement and awkwardness and little responsibilities it offered. I’m getting a bit teary writing this, but I suppose that’s appropriate for a Dashboard post, right?
And nobody cares at all! Oh, the humanity! Places features some duplicate tracks from Swiss Army along with fresh ballads like “The Brilliant Dance.” Keeping in step with Carrabba’s signature blow-to-the-chest theme, this song laments the finality of first love. We can all remember once feeling invincible until somebody beautiful/handsome taught us otherwise. Hence, the genius of Chris Carrabba’s hyper-relatable collection.
SO, KISS ME HARD. “The Best Deceptions” is hands down (pun intended) one of the greatest Dashboard songs ever written and one of the most popular for good reason. Scream-able lyrics, simple chords, and a soul-crushing story. People kinda suck. We hurt each other for terrible reasons – to save face, to feel strong, to find another “cool guy.” This track sums up the hurt, anger, and guilt that once again, we’ve most likely all experienced.
And we all know someone who smiles like a saint and curses like a sailor, right? They were probably ours once, in a land far, far away. “Saints and Sailors” personifies an “everything’s broken” relationship. The band poster-plastered walls of my bedroom definitely understood how much I hoped the phone would ring.
And how much I STARVED for a boyfriend. As a straight-edge girl, I never adopted a liquid diet like Carrabba does in “Standard Lines,” but I sure did belt out that DC classic on many occasions (see solo night drives).
While Swiss Army and Places have a few soft, delicate moments, their overall emotional power left open wounds (and a trophy display of bruises) for me in the early 2000s. Like a harsh breakup, the intensity of the songs pierced deep holes in my tender teenage spirit. Relationships are hard, man! …aren’t they? I didn’t honestly know, because I hadn’t been in one at that point. But I’ll be darned if Carrabba didn’t make me believe that I somehow comprehended the pain of this mysterious, complicated thing we call love.
To me, Swiss Army and Places were and still are emo at its finest.