It seems Yellowcard have always manage to bust out a light of (even if small) originality with anything they do. First it was when they spawned One For The Kids and introduced, unexpectingly, a violin to their lineup, and they managed to incoorperate it nicely with the insane drum lines provided by Parsons and the pop-punk vocal styles of Ryan Key. Since then Yellowcard managed to fall into a standard pop-punk hole with their 1st major label release 'Ocean Avenue' and busting out some mainstream hits while doing so. Merely a year ago 'Lights & Sounds' was released showing an entirely new side to the band, changing their style from punk-pop to a climactic alternative set. Now, it's as if they have put every one of these albums into a tight little package called 'Paper Walls'. The cover art boasts an amazingly painted city street with glowing paper houses only to be burnt down by day on the back (referring to the lyrics from the title track itself). The album can be picked up in the normal 13-track version in a standard jewel case or a boxed set with a bonus making-of DVD and a 15-track version of the CD, simply with 2 extra acoustic renditions of "Gifts And Curses" from the Spider-Man 2 soundtrack and "How I Go" which was strangely already acoustic (from "Lights & Sounds"), and it seems that if you download the whole album on itunes you will find a B-side.
So anyways, I think it's about that time that we discuss the songs themselves. Right away the album breaks into a massive explosion of sound with "The Takedown", beginning with a guitar riff (almost that of nu-metal sounding), but then busts into firing continuous drums. This song is one of the most original (apart from their other stuff) on the album, the verses and chorus continue the energy, the chorus vocals are strongPapnd add to the song nicely. The speed continues with "Fighting", quite possibly a potential single, the song introduces the main strong quality of this album: harmonized original punk violin and lead guitar riffs that seem to be the centerpiece of a few of these songs. The verses in this song are well down and are pretty damn catchy, to add to it the drums mimic the vocal melody and the chorus has a cool mood to it making this song a definate stand-out. We are then given a little break in energy with "Shrink The World", this song seems routine though, there's nothing that makes it stand out and it doesn't really have a strong chorus, though with track 4, "Keeper" we hit another amazing piece. The guitar is melodic but powerful in parts as well, backed by an enormous vocal performance, great song. But then we hit another little snag: the lead single "Light Up The Sky" it starts off cool, the verses are neat and fairly original but then we get to a poppy chorus that just doesn't fit and definately takes the song down a notch. At track 6, we are given the first ballad, "Shadows And Regrets", starting with the first trace of acoustic guitar until the epic change-up comes in, suitable for a finishing track on the album. The use of bells is great, almost resembling that of "Disarm" from Smashing Pumpkins. The chorus is strong as well, making this a great ballad, though I would like the bells to be a little more up-front.
Speed is then restored with "Five Becomes Four", seemingly about the departure of guitarist Ben Harper, the song is extremely energetic and shows traces of "One For The Kids" but with that signature "Paper Walls" element from Fighting with the raging violin riff. Though the song starts off a little weak it is great and everything comes into play, and it just keeps on goin'. Though lyrically this may remind you of "For Pete's Sake" (as well off One For The Kids), which is about bassist Pete when he initially left the band, same angry mood towards Ben in this one. And now we get to, what is for me, the highlight of the album with "Afraid", the guitars in the verse are neat and the bass plays a bit as well, the violin is great in the pre-chorus, throwing us into a fantastic (though somehow very familiar) chorus, with a great melody on everything in it, with the sick violin going, great vocals and suitable chords. The drums fire in "Date Line (I Am Gone)" bringing you into a verse where the agressive drumming continues but contrasts effectively with melodic guitar, though the chorus isn't very strong but is a little different from the others so it's nice to have a change-up, though i would prefer Ryan keeping his vocal notes down a little in the acapella pre-chorus parts.
By 3/4 through the album, we are given the second and last ballad, "Dear Bobbie". This song is based off an old-man's letter recordings to his wife, this adds so much to the song and gives it a nice old fashion feel. The song is just nice the whole way through with a good chorus backed by acoustic guitars and prominent piano. As we are nearing the end of the album we are given a set of mid-tempo'd songs that unfortunately seem routine and aren't huge or really interesting songs. Though with the first, "You And Me And One Spotlight" we are given a massive chorus proceeded by toned-down verses, though the song doesn't really offer change like most, so I guess you've come to expect it. "Cut Me, Mick" follows the routine of the last, though the guitars in the beginning resemble "Sure Thing, Falling" from Lights & Sounds and the bass is prominent which suprises you, and the guitars play in the verses as well, but much like "Light Up The Sky" the chorus doesn't suit it and isn't very good. The closing title track "Paper Walls" starts with a choir and an acoustic guitar, though I don't think this suits the song at all cause it is simply cut short by silence then some agressive highly distorted guitars. The verses are something you'd expect to come from Lights & Sounds, but aren't bad though like the track before it, the chorus isn't huge when it needed to be to make the song great. Later we are given the acoustic again but then breaking into the distortion again to finish the song and the CD.
Overall this extremely exceeded my expectations by matching the forece-fullness and speed of One For The Kids, the radio hit quality of Ocean Avenue and the epicness of Lights & Sounds. What would have made this album nearly perfect was a couple better choruses, like mentioned in Light Up The Sky, Date Line, Cut Me Mick and Paper Walls. But at the same time there are many massive and mind-blowing ones along with great verses. If Lights & Sounds was your favourite album you will definately not be disappointed as it resembles and matches the quality of that the most of all 3 proceeding albums. Definate downloads are: "Fighting", "Keeper" and "Afraid". And If you like a nice ballad once in awhile i'd suggest "Dear Bobbie".
Thanks for reading. Hope you enjoyed.