Welcome to the world of Chris Carrabba, where kisses are nuclear-powered, tattoos cannot cover enough forearm space and no album title is too pretentious. It’s easy to forget that Carrabba is a musician — the lock-jawed crooner’s dewy looks, alterna-Gap fashion sense and adoring teenage fan club make him easy critical prey before he utters a single note. But the little girls understand his grand tales of woe-mance, and a little Dippity-Do never hurt anyone’s chances on the pop charts now, did it?
On his third full-length studio effort, the emo superstar goes electric. Dylan at Newport it ain’t. Mark begins with a sprightly take on “Hands Down,” which was issued in sparser form on 2001’s So Impossible EP. The opener startles, as it was calculated to do — one is used to downtrodden acoustic fare from Carrabba, so it’s refreshing to hear him sound energized. Only after a few spins do you realize you’re listening to a Sum-41 album.
Songs such as “Rapid Hope Loss” and “I Am Missing” feature the same ham-fisted choruses, paint-by-numbers angst and faux British accents that can be found on any number of late-’90s pop-punk monstrosities. When Carrabba reverts to his popular routines — delicate, acoustic tone poems about really mean girls — he comes across so wimpy he makes Morrissey sound like Zakk Wylde. On Carrabba’s early material, one could muster sympathy for the lovesick singer; Mark makes you root for whichever tawny supermodel rattled his cage.