Listening to Dashboard Confessional can sometimes be like picking at a scab or poking at a cavity — vaguely painful and enjoyable at the same time, weirdly compelling and hard to stop. But not because the music, now fleshed out by a full band but masterminded by Boca Raton native Chris Carrabba, is unpleasant. Just the opposite — the charging tales of love almost always lost are catchy as hell, with surprisingly off-kilter patterns that wrap up in neat, melodic circles. It's the lyrics. We're not sure what happened to hurt the delicately pretty, tattooed Carrabba so much, but it seems like it's all happened to us too. And, uh, everyone else in his by-now-substantial audience.
Dashboard's fifth album, The Shade of Poison Trees, will be released on Vagrant Records on October 2. With each outing, Carrabba has moved away from his more raw, mostly acoustic emo-tional outpourings to a more studio-polished, expansive sound. But for his two-night stand this weekend at City Limits in Delray, he returns to his roots: solo, just the man and his guitar, and in a relatively intimate setting (the club's capacity is just over 500). Sure, singing along to favorites like "Hands Down" might be an exercise in poking at sore spots in your romantic history. But it hurts so good.