Review Summary: Yellowcard's Ocean Avenue reaches out and connects with our memories from our youth.
Every now and then, I find myself returning to a collection of songs that recall the memories of my early teenage years. Thoughts, feelings, and the people I knew at the time are brought back to the surface by just clicking on a song title. Sitting back in a chair or even while I’m driving, I relive the days of my youth: angst, sadness, happiness, and all the other emotions those times entailed. The music itself is nothing spectacular – even lacking in depth I could say – but the quality of the music isn’t the reason I come back to these songs. I come back because some artists just have the ability to write the perfectly-fitted song just for when I need to hear it the most. The connection I formed with the music has sense then diminished in strength: I’ve changed, situations change, and the artists themselves change, but there still remains a faint connection from which my memories can follow back to surface in my mind once again. It is a nostalgic connection – no more, no less.
Yellowcard was a band out of Jacksonville, Florida. The band played a catchy and light-hearted form of pop punk that made use of their violinist to a certain extent throughout the music. Ryan Key – the band’s primarly song writer – was quite adept when it came to writing catchy choruses, and while his vocals are an acquired taste, they did seemingly fit the music as they perfectly conveyed the teenage emotions while carrying the songs’ hooks quite suitably.
is the band’s major label debut, and thanks to a few successful singles, it is also the band’s most popular album. The first half of this pop punk release is nothing short of exceptional – in terms of the genre – with every song having a distinct feel to it. “Way Away” and “Breathing” roar out of the gate on the onset, displaying a band that is young, passionate, and ready to prove the rest of the world wrong. Longineu W. Parsons III – the band’s drummer - was certainly one of the genre’s best when he was behind the kit, and as these opening tracks display, his fills are truly exceptional and full of energy.
“Ocean Avenue” and “Only One” are the album’s biggest hits, and after just one listen, you can probably guess why. The prior is a timeless anthem, recalling nostalgic memories from not just myself but many people with its lyrics of love, ocean beaches, and the times of the past: ”…we were both 16 and it felt so right, Sleeping all day, staying up all night…”
“Only One” is an anthem for the lovesick - particularly those that miss the emotion – and here Ryan displays a great example of a subtle verse build that later leads to an anthem-like belter of a chorus. A violin solo is the highlight of the track that comes in after the second chorus, building the emotions of the track up for one more final release.
Unfortunately, the momentum the band displayed in first half of Ocean Avenue
hits a block once “Twenty Three” starts to play through the speakers. These songs aren’t particularly bad on this half of the album; however, it’s just that they uncomfortably settle in the area of the mediocre and contrived. Whether it’s with lyrics like:“Twenty three and you’re still mad at me,”
or the unconvincing mourning displayed in “View from Heaven”, the band certainly let down listeners in terms of quality when compared to the first half. That being said, not everything is bad on this side of things. “One Year, Six Months” is the perfect acoustic recall of a relationship; the tone of the guitar and Ryan’s voice make for a stunning pair, and what of “Believe,” the band’s song that is dedicated to 9/11? The track is great as it carries a driving electric violin riff that will have you raising your fist and offering thanks to the firefighters of that fateful day.
When listening to a new band in a genre where it’s increasing difficult to distinguish from one offering to the next, the first half of Ocean Avenue
is always one of the first collections of songs that I refer back to in assessing the new music. The songs are nothing short of memorable and full of energy; more importantly for music of this genre though, many of the songs are distinguishable from one another. I can’t help but smile as I remember the days of my youth, and as Ryan’s voice comes through my speakers, I give one up to the old days:
”I'm falling into memories of you and things we used to do..."