Review Summary: The codification of a language we call Youth.
When language emerges from the diverse range of factors and pre-existing conditions that spawned it, we call it the process of language selection
. The idea is not that any committee of people do said selecting, but that, amid a fractured mess of volatile possibilities and blurred borders, one mindset and set of ideas finds itself out in front of all others, and exponentially grows to take precedence. Almost all organic languages take form in the first instance in a way which appears
accidental, but it is far more complex than a random lottery; it's a matter of making the most of cultural and individual turmoil so as to develop a consistent means of communication between like-minded or similarly positioned people.
In this way and many more, Yellowcard's 2003 album Ocean Avenue
was unwittingly the selection of a language. In among the violins and flawed honesty of Ryan Key's lyrics we saw opportunities created and opportunities missed in the details of the melodramatic teenage lives the band portrayed so grittily. It could not be argued that Ocean Avenue
was a deliberate affair; it was far too imperfect for that accusation to stand, even in its impact on the very people with whom it opened up that very volatile and messy discourse, that generation of hopelessly romantic and indisputably angsty teenagers from all corners of the world. The advantage that Ocean Avenue
had on most languages is that geography was not a limiting factor.
But the languages most people know are not those raw templates etched out in the early days of new tongues; what ends up being spoken is considerably more refined than that, developed by a process we call codification
; think of the Académie Française, which structures and defines the French language with alarming frequency. What happens when a language is codified, though, is unusual, because in most if not all situations, it results in a marked loss of charm and personality from the original essence of a language; the fluidity and volatility is essentially stripped out, leaving something considerably more stable, certainly, but at the same time more rigid.
And in case it's not yet apparent, that's what When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes
is to the language of Youth; the codification, the development of rules and standards and the comprehensive definition of that dialect we've been speaking ever since the crunchy powerchords of Ocean Avenue
, right through the ideological slant of Lights And Sounds
to the more mature and self-conscious Paper Walls
. In this regard, Say Yes
is a summation, sure, of what came before it - it pushes the violin back towards the core of Yellowcard's sound, and it returns to the almost-naïve, almost-profound lyrical slant of days gone by, all whilst continuing to gently grow up. It captures the sonic essence of that language: the delicate touches of balladry in Hang You Up
and Sing To Me
; the punchy walls of guitar in See Me Smiling
; the anthemic, sing-along qualities of Be The Young
. And it nails it thematically, too; break-ups and self-reflection abound.
All of this makes Say Yes
inherently and crucially the same dialect spoken by the Yellowcard of old, only slightly more aware of its role in sounding like Yellowcard. There are no mistakes like 'Two Weeks From Twenty', no breathtaking risks like 'Holly Wood Died', and very few strange quirks to navigate like the spoken-word sections of 'Dear Bobbie'. Instead, Say Yes
is a blistering journey through stories of wanting and waiting and wondering, played out above cascades of pop-punk guitars and meandering violin hooks. This is what codification means and requires: a rehashing of even the most basic elements of the language - Saves The Day records, for example - all the way through to an expression of the most elaborate tenets.
When the kids reach for someone to talk to, the question is this: will they prefer the awkward and flawed but integrally visceral language of Ocean Avenue
, or the refined and more calculated, but still hopelessly idealistic, register of Say Yes
? I'm tempted to say that in the heat of the moment a majority will opt for the former, but the latter has a place to occupy, too. When a band's discography is as broadly appealing and consistent as Yellowcard's is, it's good to have somewhere at hand a succinct and excellent summary of what it means to be
Yellowcard. That Say Yes
very rarely feels like a dilution of those characteristics is as fine a tribute as can be paid. Think of it as the fluent and slightly less awkward expression of Ocean Avenue
's thoughts; slightly less endearing for its condensed and restricted nature, but nevertheless an absolute joy to listen.