Review Summary: To the one who got away.
We all experience it at least once in our lifetime. The initial devastation, the arguing and lashing out, perhaps even crying, and eventually the quiet contemplation in which you revisit every aspect of the relationship…where did it start to go wrong? How did things get this
bad? Usually the questions lead you right back to devastation. It is a vicious, unavoidable cycle. You always knew that breaking up was going to be difficult, but it is just a normal part of teenage and adult life. You’d get through it in the end, right? But the pain surpassed any of your most wildly pessimistic expectations, and from the moment she walked out the door you knew just one thing: you had to get her back
That is the exact sentiment expressed throughout the majority of Yellowcard’s fourth LP, Ocean Avenue
. Very few pop-punk albums have the ability to evoke a tangible emotional response. They typically thrive on speedy tempos, loud guitars, and catchy hooks to rope the listener in to a journey of lyrical clichés and rehashed musical ideas. That is why, from the moment I first heard Ocean Avenue
, I was blown away. Yellowcard is not a band that will experiment on new frontiers, nor will they impress with complicated solos. They are actually as close to average as a band can come in terms of their raw ability, but that is also, to an extent, what makes Ocean Avenue
so special. The album is a heartbreaking tale, told by average people for
average people. Straight from the honest and wavering vocals of Ryan Key, it is full of beautiful lyrics and a heart-wrenching desire to get her
back. It starts with “Way Away”, a slightly angst-ridden rocker that kicks off the album with a depressing account of isolation: I think I’m breaking out / I’m gonna leave you now / There’s nothing for me here it’s all the same
. The song is driven mostly by Ryan’s vocals and Parsons’ drumming, with several impressive contributions from the band’s violinist, Sean Mackin. The album proceeds to tell a story of lost love, and while it is not technically a concept album, it definitely contains unifying themes and follows a loose plotline. Throughout Ocean Avenue
, Ryan Key laments over the loss of this girl, the person his heart can’t escape…his only one
. “Breathing”, “Ocean Avenue”, and “Empty Apartment” all show signs of regret, with statements like The only love I ever knew, I threw it all away
and We're looking up at the same night sky / And keep pretending the sun will not rise / We'll be together for one more night / Somewhere, somehow
Complementing these tracks quite nicely are a few overt anthems of love; “Only One” and “Inside Out.” Key has never sounded more passionate and resolute than he does on “Only One”, as he serenades, begs, screams, and declares his affection. Inside Out is an equally romantic demonstration, as Key sings at the top of his lungs, The two of us we dream like one / The two of us, the two of us / The two of us take breath like one / The two of us, the two of us
. However, the song ends with the album’s first display of bitterness: Just turn your back away and leave / And if you're lucky I will be your last regret, your only friend
. By this point, you can essentially feel the emotional dynamics shifting from an overall feeling of discouragement and heartbreak to one of anger and bargaining. Ocean Avenue
evolves just as you do through each step of a break up, all the way from the wallowing sorrow until the resolution and acceptance.
apparently doesn’t let go very easily, because it is not until the album’s final two songs that Ryan Key shows signs of moving on. “One Year, Six Months”, the album’s primary acoustic ballad, thrives on the strumming of multiple acoustic guitars and Ryan’s sensitive vocals/lyrics. The acoustic picking in the verses is actually deceivingly complex, and it adds to the song’s depth. In the meanwhile, Ryan once again wears his heart on his sleeve with lyrics like I'm falling into memories of you and things we used to do / Follow me there / A beautiful somewhere / A place that I can share with you
. In a way, this seems to be Ryan’s way of extending an olive branch to himself. In all of the preceding songs, he tortures himself with regret and falls into depression over everything that could have (but didn’t) allow the relationship to last. On “One Year, Six Months” he appears to be finally coming to terms with the fact that she isn’t coming back…and the way he sings it makes it easy for anyone to relate to. “Back Home”, the album’s closing track, continues along the same lines, expressing frustration towards the shallowness of relationships in society, making the analogy, “Another sunny day in Californ-i-a, sometimes I wish that it would rain here.”
isn’t all about breakups, however. They do make occasional detours into songs about living up to your father’s expectations (“Life of a Salesman”), the death of a loved one (View from Heaven”), and the heroic firefighters of 9/11 (“Believe”). The latter is a particularly moving tribute, succeeding on the basis of Mackin’s exceptionally emotional violin performance and excerpts from two different speeches: New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s on the first anniversary of September 11th, and Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Emotions run high in these songs as well, thanks in part to the topics as well as Ryan Key’s delivery of them.
, as corny as this may sound, is an album that will touch your heart. Many music enthusiasts go straight to their favorite heavy metal album as a form of breakup therapy; and while there is no doubt that it can provide a musical outlet for your anger, it doesn’t necessarily relate to the part of you that still wants to get the girl back. Ocean Avenue
takes you through all the other
stages of recovery, while also touching on other emotionally traumatic events of the album’s era (9/11). It is depressed when you are depressed, it whines when you whine, and it becomes self-assured and confident when you realize that, just as you suspected in the beginning, everything will turn out alright.
The eyes get red in the back of your head, this place will make you blind
Put it all behind me and I'll be just fine
So here’s to the one who got away, and a fantastic album that provides an emotional experience like no other.