[20 April 2011]
PopMatters Events Editor
When Florida pop punk outfit Yellowcard announced their indefinite hiatus in April 2008, it appeared for all intents and purposes that their days were numbered. No longer riding the success from platinum selling Ocean Avenue and gold certified Lights and Sounds, the band’s 2007 offering Paper Walls failed to generate the explosive response of its predecessors and found the band playing smaller venues, struggling to get radio airplay and battling mounting tension within the band itself. It wasn’t long before the band was dropped by Capitol records and the members of Yellowcard found themselves scattered across the country pursuing other interests.
Perhaps the most unfortunate part of Yellowcard’s descent from the spotlight was the under-appreciated brilliance that emitted from Paper Walls. Even though the album was well received by critics and arguably featured the best songwriting of the band’s career, the album and the band itself were both too far removed from the simple youth pop sound that made the band staples on MTV and rock radio. This knowledge might lead one to fairly assume that with Yellowcard’s reemergence might come the inevitable return to both the young sound and mentality that captured them mainstream recognition in the first place. Luckily, Yellowcard is a better band than that.
That’s not to say that their newest release When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes doesn’t encapsulate much of what made Yellowcard so great in the first place—it most certainly does. But for as much of a blast from the past this album provides sonically, it’s far from a rehashing of old material. This is growth. This is what three years away can do for a band. And when the first notes of opening track “The Sound of You and Me” blast through the speakers, it’s evident that Yellowcard means business with its comeback, and that’s even before vocalist Ryan Key belts “I’ve never been more ready to move on” during the height of the chorus.
The album’s first single, “For You, and Your Denial” begins with a beautiful intro from violinist Sean Mackin that immediately induces memories from 2003’s Ocean Avenue, yet this track features too much bite to be confused with old material. The song finds Key responding to critics and fans who want the “old” Yellowcard back only to have Key reply “I have seen what holding on can take away/If it’s the past you love, then that’s where you can stay”. If there was any question as to what the band’s motives are upon its return, the proof is in the pudding.
The immediate catchiness of “For You, and Your Denial” bleeds into “With You Around”, which opens with a brilliant nod to the past as Key sings “Do you remember when I said you were my ‘Only One’?” The track, which reminisces on a past summer love in hopes of reigniting the spark, features the catchiest chorus on the album and is driven by the guitar work of Ryan Mendez. At this point, there’s no mistaking it—this is a summer album. But not in a way that follows the lead of past works in the same vein. This is a summer album for the slightly matured, an album that looks back on the hopeful naivety of adolescence with a smirk, a shrug and step forward.
The middle portion of When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes is relentless, whether it be the extremely upbeat and poppy “Hide”, a track which features the much-missed and always perfectly timed drum fills from Longineu Parsons, or the heavier “Soundtrack” which is brilliantly produced by Neal Avron and utilizes Mackin’s violin skills masterfully. The album stops to catch its breath only with the occasional slow number such as “Hang You Up”, a track which once again recalls the formula that made past songs like “Empty Apartment” so appealing, yet still manages to capture the progression of the band, both in mentality and musicianship.
The album features only a few hiccups, such as “Sing For Me”, an overproduced ballad that serves to be nothing more than a momentum killer, and while closer “Be the Young” captures the heart behind the album, it fails to be as memorable of an end cap as one might hope for such an entertaining ride. It’s hard to let any flaws stand in the way of such a magnificent return, though. The band sound as tight as ever and newly added bassist Sean O’Donnell fits exceptionally well into the mix.
All in all, this is the pop punk record that so many fans who have grown up with the genre needed to hear. Proof that pop punk can grow up without becoming lame. That it can remember the past without being forced to live in it. That it can capture the glimmer and hope of youth while focusing on the future and the possibilities ahead. With the release of When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes, Yellowcard has proven that their best days may still be ahead of them.