Review Summary: One of Yellowcard's finest projects. A bit of a continuation of Ocean Avenue, but even more importantly, the start of something more.
I vividly remember blaring the passages to Yellowcard's Ocean Avenue
like it was yesterday, every detail as poignant as the last. The summery instrumentals, the heartfelt woes and the underlying message to move on and start fresh made that album nothing short of a pop punk classic. It would be quite a long time before the group put out something that captivating again. 2006's Lights and Sounds
was a stale progression from its predecessor and 2007's Paper Walls
treaded waters of newfound hope that would be overshadowed by the group going on hiatus just a year later. Finally, a truly worthy sequel to Ocean Avenue
came in the form of 2011's When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes
, the group's first of three releases on Hopeless Records.
Everything you loved about Ocean Avenue
returns on this album, but Yellowcard has new tricks up their sleeve this time. Ryan Key is now armed with both years of improvement as a vocalist and a renewed lease on life that makes Yellowcard's youthful, summery energy even more engaging than ever before. While Ocean Avenue
's underlying themes of moving towards brighter days were buried under lyrical passages that suggested Ryan Key wasn't getting over his ex anytime soon, When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes
approaches the listener with a more subdued and mature outlook. No longer juvenile and certainly not as crestfallen and bitter, Yellowcard gives us a masterpiece that not only truly picks up where Ocean Avenue
left off, but concretizes its own path and has both new stories to tell and new messages to imprint upon the listener.
"The Sound of You and Me" is triumphant in its opening to the album. Sean Macklin's violin soars over blistering instrumentals. Ryan Key approaches the microphone to set the tone for the entire album with one simple proclamation; "I've never been more ready to move on." Ryan also makes it known he doesn't want to waste any time working it out with his unnamed companion before his limited time on this earth draws to a close. This is the first of many times Ryan Key's maturation shines on When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes
and a similar theme is reiterated on "With You Around."
As the listener hears Key plea, "Do you remember when I said you were my only one? We were running underneath the California sun?", it's no secret he is referencing the girl who inspired the heartbreaking woes of Ocean Avenue
. Only this time, Ryan isn't prepared to sulk and linger on what transpired before. It's clear he wants to make amends, corroborated by the line "Now I want to chase forever down with you around." Though the listener could scoff at the fact Ryan would give this girl a second chance after all
the anguish he poured out on Ocean Avenue
, the notion that you shouldn't hold grudges and should be open to resolving past transgressions - with those who deserve it, at least - is a very healthy and resourceful quality to possess.
Thankfully, though, Ryan shows he has grown wise in the intervening years since he screamed his lungs out for his only one. He doesn't give second chances to just anybody anymore and proves this with lead off single "For You, and Your Denial", where Ryan sings of letting go of someone who has proven to be dead weight and a bad influence, and "Hang You Up", where he reinforces his previously hidden want to let go and turn over a new leaf. He lets this person know, however, that he will remember them fondly and he will miss them. This is a pleasant repetition of the maturation scrawled throughout the album. Longineu Parson's drums gently crash over peaceful violin refrains as the track closes subdued and without much fanfare.
"Hide" sees Ryan caution his nameless friend that if they can't reach out to him to work things out, he'll wait patiently and optimistically, meanwhile reminding them of "where we used to hide." Crunching riffs from Ryan Mendez carry the group through one of the catchiest choruses on the album. Instrumentally, "Soundtrack" is a great callback to the youthful pop punk that occupied some of the most memorable parts of Ocean Avenue
, though Ryan is assured that "nothing's gonna break our hearts this time" and as evidenced by Ryan's announcing that "we've got symphonies still left inside us", it's clear Yellowcard will leave no stone unturned and will make the most of the time they have; another great message to leave the listener with, making When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes
even more cohesive and captivating.
"See Me Smiling" is one of the best vocal performances of Ryan Key's career. The guitars and violins mesh together perfectly, but Key is even better with a strong showing behind the mic that sees him sing of not being afraid to admit he's still learning to let go and it isn't as easy to move on, as some of the more valiant passages of this album might have suggested. This song is a living reminder that Yellowcard isn't just a voice of reason. They experience your growing up process with
you and are walking with you step by step. Ability to admit to being at fault is yet another
resourceful lesson this album presents to the listener, but just when that
couldn't be outdone, it is. "Be the Young" closes the album with a final kick that encapsulates the entire ark of the album.
Stylistically, it's a slight departure from the Yellowcard you remember from 2003. The arena rock overtones creep their way in particularly as the track opens, but the lyrical content reminds you that you're listening to the Yellowcard you know and love, only better than before. Ryan tells the listener "growing up has just begun" and "there's a place where the pain is useless and we'll forever be the young." This is the perfect summation of two of the more prominent themes of the album converging together as one; growing up, but also being youthful and passionate and never missing an opportunity. This beautifully crafted album, filled with tons of catchy hooks and optimal quality instrumentals is laced ever so perfectly with swaths of mature and resourceful lyrical passages and with this summery hope and maturation now fully realized, When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes
draws to a close.
When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes
is worthy of being dubbed an official sequel to Ocean Avenue
, because it is quite literally the only album in Yellowcard's catalog that stands up to it and can hold a candle to it. But the true achievement of this album is that it shines brightly on its own, has its own emotional through-line to trek through and most importantly, its own path to follow. Countless times on this masterpiece are you challenged to move on, start fresh, rebuild bridges, create new ones, unshackle yourself from old, unnecessary burdens and most of all, to live life to the fullest and never miss an opportunity.
We're only on this earth once and our time is limited. It's imperative that we seize every moment to carve out new paths, while only looking forward, never looking back unless it's to reflect and learn from past mistakes. Yellowcard are the champions of this philosophy and while they could never really assume that mantle with Ocean Avenue
, they claim it and hoist it high with When You're Through Thinking, Say Yes
. This may very well be the best album the group ever released, even though Ocean Avenue
a classic. But that's okay. The message on this album is easily the strongest the group ever put forth. I've never been more ready to move on. I hope you are too or are at least on the road to moving on. If you are, let Yellowcard guide you. When you're through thinking, say yes.