Review Summary: The beginning of a model of consistency.
The story of Yellowcard at times can
be the story of the average pop punk band in the mid 2000's. The band strung together a couple hit singles together on their mainstream breakthrough Ocean Avenue
. Which was extremely well received by fans, and created many new fans but was only met with average critical acclaim. High and mighty on their pop punk throne, the band sought to win over the critics and keep their fans by being the risk takers. Their over ambition translated to a creative, instrumental album, but a commercial dud in Lights and Sounds
. The prior did have some of their best songs to date, but an unexpected change to alternative rock a la The Offspring, alienated the majority of their fan base that loved their catchy hooks lost on Lights and Sounds
. So where do you go from there? As a band you cannot completely get rid of the sound you committed to on the previous release, but you need to try to win your fans of your older material back. The answer is you combine the sounds. Throw some muscle onto your pop punk with of course Sean Mackin on the violin. This is where there story is different, they only got better
. So before us we have their 2007 effort Paper Walls
which is their most ambitious, hook ridden release. And it is also their best release to date, and a classic in all forms of the word.
Many of the tracks take a strong influence from predecessor Lights and Sounds
like "Afraid" with a perfect alternative rock sound. It sounds very similar "Martin Sheen or JFK" off it's predecessor but with the light warmheartedness of "Twentythree" off Ocean Avenue
. As the same with "Cut Me, Mick" which gives them the edge similar to that of "Lights and Sounds" laced with heavy alternative rock.
However this album strikes a whole new territory for the group and that is consistency. Ocean Avenue
and Lights And Sounds
were great in their own right, but they were not consistent. This is a consistent album through and through. Their first consistent mark is their lyrics. The lyricism is the most empowering Ryan and company have ever written. A primary example is 6th track "Shadows and Regrets" in which Ryan sings about a friend that he simply grew apart from. Not only is this sad, but it is amazing how it can be related to many of us. On the same key "Dear Bobbie" is an soft anthem for the older lovers that lived in a time where if something was broke they fixed it, not threw it away. Listening to it makes you look at an elderly couple and have nothing but the utmost respect. On the albums closer, the titular "Paper Walls", a soft children's chorus is placed in the beginning, and it's a lovely touch on a beautiful song. Ryan sings to us that he is holding on to this dream he shared with another. He won't let go. No matter how much the other has stopped believing, he will not give it up.
Aside from the superb lyricism, musically this is a consistent pop punk masterpiece. The first three tracks are a significant part of the album that screams to fans and listeners that "Yellowcard is back." On the standout track the fast paced "The Takedown", guitarist Ryan Mendez opens up with a fast guitar riff and then the rest of the band jumps in with him to create a rocker with violinist Sean Mackin's finest solo to date. The song tiptoes in notes, and is one of the best listens on the entire album. The song shows the excellent mastering of all the instruments by all the members. Next track "Fighting" is pop punk at it's finest, with an incredible hook "What are we fighting for, there must be something more. Through all these words I sing, don't you feel anything?"
And a rhythm accompanying the song that makes you tap your toe. Then comes the third track "Shrink the World" another hooky, perfectly made pop punk jam filled with the speed, and consistency that fans have come to expect from the band. It's easily the catchiest track on the album. Later on the album you have "Five Becomes Four", which is played so fast with Mackin's violin that you think without any prior knowledge that the track is an Irish step dance. Which also experiments with light pop punk breakdowns hardly hit by the group before.
Looking back at this album now it is easy to have no doubt in your mind it is absolutely their best record. The lyrics are incredible, the instruments are expertly placed, and the hooks are stronger than they have ever been. As for Yellowcard, this album began to set a model of consistency for the group and even after a short hiatus, they continued to be one of the most consistent groups in the entire music industry. With two amazing releases after this opus with When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes
and Southern Air
. However It all had to start with this masterpiece here. Pop punk is not dead, and if more people listened to this, they would know why.
"Let's take what hurts and write it all down, on these paper walls and this empty house.