Review Summary: Ben Dobson's last album with Yellowcard would turn out to be his best; unfortunately, Dobson's best is still easily not as good as Ryan Key's worst.
There’s a reason why Yellowcard’s pre-Ryan Key material is often discarded by most fans and adored by the rest. Followers of the band either claim they sold out or found their strengths with Ocean Avenue
– the in-between doesn’t exist. The sloppy hardcore punk of Midget Tossing
and Where We Stand
is considerably different from the melodic, pop-punk sound of everything post-2001. Ben Dobson’s vocals are considerably raspier and rougher than those of Ryan Key, while their material seemed as if it was produced in the basement of one of the band members. Although 90s Yellowcard may have easily produced the band’s worst albums, they did show some potential before Ryan Key’s arrival. Where We Stand
manages to improve over several of the Jacksonville sextet’s faults. Production-wise, the record’s sound is a bit more clear, and at times distinguishing between instruments is actually possible, opposed to the “wall of noise” that ruined Midget Tossing
. Even though Dobson’s vocals are still harsh and hoarse, he manages to sing melodically on songs like “Time Will Tell” and
”Anywhere But Here”. Combined with fast-paced riffs and furious drumming, adding them all up creates a recipe for some of the band’s best 90s material. Yellowcard’s instrumentation on Where We Stand
is an improvement over the sloppiness of their debut, which is mainly due to the fact that the riffs are more distinguishable. On tracks like the frenetic two-minute blitz of “Sorry Try Again”, Ben Harper gets a chance to show off his fast licks – opportunities like this could never have arose on Midget
Where We Stand
isn’t perfect – Dobson still suffers from a severe lack of energy and a tendency to sing out of tune, and the use of violin is limited only to one or two songs. When he yells, the anger in his voice is devoid of any emotion, which makes the message he sends out seem half-assed and fake. Harsh vocals can be filled with passion, but Ben Dobson’s just aren’t. The tracks “Sue” and “Uphill Both Ways” were originally recorded for 1997’s Midget Tossing
, and while the latter isn’t all that bad, it does overstay its welcome. With only ten songs, recycling old material rather than using new ones detracts from its quality, especially since “Sue” was one of the weakest songs on Yellowcard’s freshman effort. Where We Stand
is substandard the most in its middle section, when tracks like “April 20th” (which is either about Columbine or marijuana) and “Kids” end up sounding the same. The closest the album comes to decent is “Time Will Tell”, one of the band’s strongest songs from the hardcore punk era. If Midget Tossing
was Yellowcard’s Pablo Honey
, a debut that was only a fraction of what would come in the future, then Where We Stand
is their The Bends
, a further development of their sound that saw them reaching out into some new ideas and improving on their flaws.
The only difference being that The Bends
became one of their greatest albums.