Dashboard Confessional is back, because everything old is new again. The publicist who alerted me to the release Crooked Shadows, the band’s first release in nearly a decade, noted that the album is available on “all Digital Service Providers.” This is true for all of Dashboard’s albums except one: Their debut, The Swiss Army Romance, which was released in 2000 and is not available on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, or Google Play. Buying a used CD on Amazon will cost over $20; none of Dashboard’s labels, past or present, are selling it online. By modern standards, this makes it virtually inaccessible.
On the other hand, every other Dashboard album is available online. Spotify has a slightly larger selection than Apple Music, which is missing the band’s 2001 album The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most. (That’s the one with “Screaming Infidelities,” a very good song about being cheated on, which also appears in a rawer state on The Swiss Army Romance.) Both Apple and Spotify have Carrabba’s 2002 MTV Unplugged album — but neither has The Swiss Army Romance.
In their review of Crooked Shadows, Rolling Stone said that the world is a very different place than it was 15 years ago, when Chris Carrabba “propelled his streamy perpetually wounded drama to its Gold-record apex.” This is true, both culturally and technically. Fifteen years ago, people went to the store to purchase albums that they would later play on their CD players or in their cars. That is not how people purchase music anymore, if they purchase it at all. Album sales are down, streaming is king, etc. Yet the only way you can listen to The Swiss Army Romance is by going to the store and buying the CD, like someone who is stuck in the halcyon days of 2000.
Carrabba is not the only musician with an incomplete discography, as far as streaming services go. Between 2015 and 2017, Prince pulled his entire discography from every streaming service except Tidal. Neil Young abandoned Spotify for a few years, only to come back. Billboard recently compiled a list of artists whose music is missing from streaming services, including Aaliyah, De La Soul, and Yoko Ono. Taylor Swift famously refused to put her 2014 album 1989 on streaming services like Spotify and Pandora, because those services pay musicians an extremely low rate — between $0.006 and $0.0084, according to The Verge — per stream.
You can go on and on. Now that streaming has become the dominant listening paradigm for a new generation of music fans, this means many, many classic albums of the canon remain out of touch for anyone to hear, except for those who legally purchase the mp3s or physical albums — and that’s a hard bet when fans have been conditioned to search for the cheapest available option. (For the record, I would totally shell out $10 for those Swiss Army Romance mp3s, but probably no more than that.)
That said, there’s a cut and dry answer here. I reached out to Hard 8 Management, which manages Dashboard Confessional, to inquire about the missing album. A representative for Carrabba’s manager, Rich Egan, told me that they are working on “relaunching the catalogue,” and that all albums will be available online “in about a week or two.” When I asked if this was a rights issue, they quickly said “Nope. No, not at all. We’re just doing some repackaging, that’s all. It’ll be up there soon.” That the debut album of a relatively beloved man could remain absent for such a long time is curious, but if they’re serious, it should be available in a short time, allowing fans new and old to cry once more. Still no word about Aaliyah, though.