Yellowcard – Yellowcard
Released: October 7th 2016
Yellowcard Line up:
Ryan Key | Vocals, Rhythm Guitar, Piano
Sean Mackin | Violin, Vocals
Ryan Mendez | Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals
Josh Portman | Bass Guitar
Here’s the thing about the latest offering from Yellowcard, it’s not bad, it’s not great and it’s definitely not as great as Yellowcard are seemingly desperate for it to be… and this is where the problems lie. For those of you wondering, yes, Yellowcard is still a band. For those of you who don’t know, remember that Ocean Avenue song from 2003? Yeah, that’s Yellowcard, they’re a pop-punk band and they have a violinist… WOWZERS.
Now, before people get up in arms about my condescending tone, please understand that I think Ocean Avenue is a fucking jam. That album was mad in 2003 and is still mad in 2016.Hell, I’ve backed a lot of what they’ve done since Ocean Avenue, right up until their reunion album When You’re Through Thinking Say Yes. Since then however, each of their offerings has progressively suffered more from the same issue: being fucking mundane.
The inherent mundanity is pushed to new, lofty, artistic heights by the circumstances surrounding Yellowcard’s latest, self-titled, ham sandwich of an album. About 3-4 months prior to the release of Yellowcard the band decided that it was time to announce they were calling it quits. If it were a band at the peak of their career, I probably wouldn’t have as big an issue with the timing of this announcement as I do (i.e. Brand New). The problem is, Yellowcard peaked in the mid 2000’s and since then has enjoyed a gradual decent into mediocrity. It’s not that their charting positions and album sales have necessarily been bad, it’s just that their songs haven’t been good enough to warrant investment from new listeners. This lack of fresh uptake is what makes their ‘we’re breaking up a year and a half in advance, releasing an album and going on tour… COME SEE US BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE’ publicity stunt reek of one last cynical cash grab.
So here comes Yellowcard, they’ve announced they’re breaking up and they’re releasing one final album (plus they’re going on tour… BUY TICKETS AND SHIRTS).
The album’s self-titled (ooooo edgy)
Its cover is a landscape, featuring an overcast sky and a lone farmhouse (ooooo edgy)
The lead single is called Rest in Peace because the band is DYING (Yawn)
The band is touring with a backdrop and merch featuring 1997-2017 (Cliché)
Oh man, the album is the same generic bullshit we’ve been choking down for years (bummer)
Yellowcard is nothing ground-breaking for the band, which wouldn’t usually be a problem… I mean, they’ve been milking a career out of passable pop-punk combined with a strong dose of Member Berries (watch South Park) since fucking 2005. Here’s the thing though, you can’t simply market an album differently, subsequently release the same shit and then parade around claiming it is “one of the strongest record of our career” and “a fitting final creative piece”. That’s like taking a fat, hairy, sweaty, dude named Steve, putting him in a tight red dress with some lipstick and expecting me to look at him and think to myself “Oh I see, that’s completely different now. You know what, if I were to have to choose between Sweaty Steve and that sexy brunette I unsubtly leered at in the street the other day, I would most definitely choose Sweaty Steve in a dress”.
As I’m sure you’ve realised by now, Yellowcard tries ever so hard to break new ground and instead gets bogged down in mediocre attempts at grandiosity. This is of course in no short part due to the expectations placed upon it. The overall melancholy feel of the album could have been a step in a darker, more mature direction for the band, but in the context of an impending breakup this melancholy tone has more of an overarching feeling of “we’re breaking up, so you better feel bad about it”. The resulting “creative piece” is dreary and tends to drag its feet, especially through the middle six tracks. This is a common problem for Yellowcard, they are not an album band. This would have been totally fine, if not for the expectations which their marketing campaign and impending breakup placed upon it.
In pursuit of originality, Yellowcard is home to a number of very strange stylistic choices. Attempts to incorporate acoustic guitars and clean tones fall short of true creativity and instead wind up sounding simply like a standard Yellowcard song played on acoustic guitar. Rather than offer diversity, this has a tendency to make the album feel weak and empty. Lead single and opening track Rest in Peace incorporates acoustic guitar in the place traditionally held by a distorted rhythm guitar. I couldn’t help but feel how much stronger the song could have been if it didn’t sound so thin. The acoustic tendencies Yellowcard have are utilised to good effect on some tracks, such as I’m a Wrecking Ball, however these positive glimpses are often drowned out by the forced ‘creativity of the album as a whole (see confusingly clean second single The Hurt is Gone).
I have always enjoyed Yellowcard’s lyrics and these could have been a strong point on the album in different circumstances. Unfortunately, much like the other elements on Yellowcard, the lyrics must be viewed from the perspective of a band in its death throws. Penultimate track Saviour’s Robes, which is an album high point, comes across as a dig at the band’s long-time fans. Lyrics like ‘Play us a song, make it an older one, don’t you get it?’ wouldn’t have otherwise stood out, but in the surrounding context come across as bitter and angry, directed point blank at fans that failed to embrace Yellowcard outside of their mid-2000’s heyday. Unfortunately for Yellowcard, there is nothing on this album to make a person who missed the intervening years since Ocean Avenue stop and think they may have missed out on anything special.
When a band goes into an album cycle knowing it will be their last, when a band markets an album as “The Final Record” and when a band releases a statement on their website claiming they pushed themselves to create “…a lasting finale for this incredible story…” it is entirely possible that the resulting album will never live up to expectations. When you combine this with a band that has, quite frankly, failed to live up to expectations since 2005 you have a recipe for fucking disaster.
Yellowcard isn’t a bad album by any stretch of the imagination. If you’re still following Yellowcard you have probably gotten used to the band’s hit and miss relationship with strong melodies and propensity for stylistic choices that occasionally land very wide of the mark. The problems that encumber Yellowcard is that it is a FINAL album and everyone knows it. Songs which on any other album would have represented a step in the right direction are now received with a feeling of ‘oh well, that’s the end of that’ and the band are so desperate to go out with a bang that attempts at arena rock grandeur are mired in cliché. Songs like delicately melancholy album closer Fields & Fences could have been executed in a way which served as a fitting end to the band’s long-standing career. Instead, this potential highlight is clumsily pushed past its logical end point at three and a half minutes, in favour of a half-baked attempt at ‘artistry’ which comes across as a forced and unnecessary three-minute addition. This is the entire problem, Yellowcard were trying so hard to do something special that they wasted their opportunity to do so. An album like If You’re Through Thinking Say Yes, which isn’t necessarily ground-breaking, but is deftly executed, classic Yellowcard could have been a fitting end for the band and preserved their legacy in a far more fitting manner than this latest offering.
It’s hard to hypothesise how things could have played out differently had Yellowcard decided to break up at the end of an album cycle like a normal band. It’s hard to look past the cavalcade of marketing surrounding this far from ground-breaking album and see it as a failed attempt to be something that Yellowcard is not. Yellowcard never quite reached the heights of pop-punk royalty and it seems like this album was a last ditch attempt to create some sort of ground-breaking legacy. What Yellowcard failed to realise was that they had a legacy which this album needed to maintain. Sure, it wasn’t a pop-punk dynasty like what Blink-182 and Green Day birthed, but Yellowcard had a dedicated fan base who really didn’t give a shit that they broke very little ground outside of “look the riff is played on a violin”. Personally, I listened to all of Yellowcard’s album up until 2014’s Lift a Sail and in every one of them I found something that resonated with me that I could latch onto. This element is missing from Yellowcard, which is somehow cold, calculated and soulless. Unfortunately, when you make a big ol’ hoo-hah out of releasing Yellowcard: The final ever album, we’re super serial, you better fucking buy it, cause it’s the last one, you need to create something pretty special to justify the hype. Yellowcard on the other hand, decided to declare to their fan base that they reinvented the wheel and then subsequently released the aural equivalent of a turnip.
Yellowcard wanted to announce their breakup, release a ground-breaking final album and have everyone be super bummed they quit on a high note. In judgment of their level of success in this endeavour, I put forward the following phrase, which applies equally to their final album as it does to their career as a whole.
There was nothing particularly wrong with it, it just never came close to topping Ocean Avenue.
5.5 violin riffs out of 10.
– Michael Thomas, and his opinions
Yellowcard track listing:
- Rest in Peace
- What Appears
- Got Yours
- A Place We Set Afire
- Leave a Light On
- The Hurt is Gone
- Empty Street
- I’m a Wrecking Ball
- Saviour’s Robes
- Fields & Fences