Yellowcard
Paper Walls


4.5
superb

Review

by Sowing STAFF
May 27th, 2018 | 66 replies


Release Date: 2007 | Tracklist

Review Summary: You will never be alone.

My nineteenth birthday was a busy one – it was my first college summer semester off, I had to have my wisdom teeth pulled out, and Paper Walls was released. Mind you, this was 2007 – and people still occasionally bought CDs – so first thing in the morning, before my dreaded dentist appointment, I raced over to the electronics section of a local Best Buy (remember when like, one quarter of their store was music?simpler times…) and got my hands on Yellowcard’s sixth LP. I’ll never forget jumping in my car, sliding that bad boy in, and blaring ‘The Takedown’ as I flew up the highway, probably going at least 80 miles per hour, and allowing the warm morning air to blast through the windows while the most important music to me at that time funneled through my speakers. It was mid-July and there was new Yellowcard to be heard. LPIII’s insane drumming, Mendez’s catchy-as-all-hell riffs, and Ryan frantically singing above it all; how could things get any better?

For as much as Ocean Avenue defined my years in high school, guiding me through the bumbling, awkward phases of attempting to court a girl in my AP Calc class, Paper Walls was my college chapter. It was the last album that Yellowcard would drop before going on an extended – and at the time, indefinite – hiatus, so it saw me through all four years of university. After Lights and Sounds’ darker themes both delighted and alienated fans, Paper Walls was a welcome return to the sunny, warm, coastal California vibes that most people associated Yellowcard with. For a teen who was spending the first four years of his life away from family and friends – struggling with relationships, making friends, and forging a new concept of home – it was everything at that time. I needed the familiarity.

Of course in retrospect, Yellowcard has done better than this album, but from 2007-2010 it was basically my Ocean Avenue 2.0 – a title that it would not relinquish until the vastly superior Southern Air hit shelves in 2012. The biggest knock against Paper Walls is the subdued violin presence, which only noticeably peaks its head through on a couple of tracks. I don’t even recall caring about that at the time though, because in 2007 music hit me in a totally different way. I was less critical. Everything sounded life changingly relevant. It’s a sensation I desperately miss, this feeling of living through music in a way that my jaded, critical ears can’t seem to do anymore. That’s part of what I associate with Paper Walls: this blissful naivety where music spoke to me, accompanied me through life, and ultimately shaped memories that will last a lifetime.

Paper Walls is a hopeless romantic. “If I could then I’d shrink the world tonight”, Key belts out on the album’s third track, before tying it together with, “so that I would find, you and me inside.” Sure it’s a bit corny, but it’s Yellowcard, so you can’t think for one second that Ryan Key’s heart isn’t fully invested in every verse. Lines like “You know I need something that's real” or “But you've come this far with a broken heart” sound better than they read, which is a testament to Key’s delivery and the band’s ability to elevate the emotion of the music that backs his voice during such moments. Yellowcard has always been a simple band – be it vocally, instrumentally, lyrically – but the passion they record and perform live with has always elevated them above their peers, while simultaneously linking them to their fans in a way far more meaningful than any slightly more complex guitar solo could. So when Ryan sings “hear me now, you will never be alone” on the impassioned title track and Paper Walls curtain-call, you believe it. In fact, you take it as a promise.

As the ocean vibes swell throughout, Paper Walls delivers a handful of Yellowcard’s best but most forgotten songs. Nobody ever talks about ‘Cut Me, Mick” for example, a song that feels so genuinely invested and inspiring that it’s a wonder it didn’t become more popular. Key pleads, seemingly in hopeful desperation, “You are the one that I need, you know that I can still bleed…bring me back to life”, before singing, knowingly, “…and the more you say you don't care, the more I know you're there.” This is the kind of song Paper Walls lives off of – these incredibly well executed, sometimes questionably produced, but still overwhelmingly affecting tracks. ‘Five Becomes Four’ is another one; a reference to former guitarist Ben Harper leaving the band that could be extrapolated to mean even more personal – “When you're all alone with the melody / Do you close your eyes and think of me?” It’s also one of the aforementioned few tracks where the violin really shines. The title track is hands down the best thing here though, commencing with a children’s choir that actually doesn’t sound all that contrived (they’re all a little bit contrived, let’s face it), before erupting into these huge-sounding riffs that are accompanied by the most reassuring lyrical passage in Yellowcard’s entire discography: “Here I am, still holding on to this dream we had / Won't let go of it / Hear me now, you will never be alone.” Key sings so emphatically here, and with such conviction, that even though he’s most likely singing about the girl from Ocean Avenue, it bridges the gap between lyrical storyline and reality – becoming an anthem of sorts for fans who follow Yellowcard’s albums like chapters in a book. Had their hiatus turned into a permanent one, it would have served as a perfect, if slightly ironic, swan song.

Paper Walls is one of Yellowcard’s best but least mentioned moments. There are no mega-hits to anchor this in pop-punk lore, but that’s part of the album’s charm. It feels much more personal and purposeful. In a discography overflowing with mainstream success, they almost needed an album like this. It paved the way for When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes because it showed the band how to craft summery pop-punk jams without trying to make each track into a single – and by 2011, they sorted out some of the weird issues with overproduction that surface here. All in all, it’s a great bridge between the group’s adolescent success and their more mature, post-hiatus offerings. As the members of Yellowcard were facing that transformation, many of their fans were just like me – in their late teens, transitioning into adulthood. I can’t speak for everyone, but it was pretty damn nice to have an album like Paper Walls to see me through it.



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user ratings (664)
3.6
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other reviews of this album
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Comments:Add a Comment 
Sowing
Moderator
May 27th 2018


43997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

The new William Ryan Key EP has me on a Yellowcard binge again.

I'm going to wrap up Yellowcard's Ryan Key-inclusive discography (because I don't really consider their first two albums with Dobson as true YC) by the time I hit 350 reviews. All I have left is Lights and Sounds. Kind of hard to believe that I didn't already have them written but oh well.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
May 27th 2018


27975 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

some things never change :D



agreed the title track is a jam. always found shadows and regrets to be one of their best slow songs tho..



got me jamming YC for the first time in a year or so!

Sowing
Moderator
May 27th 2018


43997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Then my mission is complete!

JesperL
Staff Reviewer
May 27th 2018


5516 Comments

Album Rating: 4.3

Keeper is probably my favourite here, though there isn't a single song I don't like

Sowing
Moderator
May 27th 2018


43997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

For me it goes t/t, Cut Me Mick, Takedown, Keeper, then the rest. But like you said, not a bad song. Dear Bobbie isn't all that great but I can tolerate it.

DropTune
May 27th 2018


1292 Comments


I always loved this band. They were local heroes honestly. The high school they graduated from still recognizes them. That's the only thing I missed moving from there. They were the most underrated and underappreciated members of pop-punk.

Observer
Emeritus
May 28th 2018


9408 Comments


Probably my favorite album by these guys.

The bonus track "Bombers" is a killer tune that I wish had made the A-side cut. Violin present and anthemic as hell.

Sowing
Moderator
May 28th 2018


43997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I don't know how it's possible but I've never heard that song

Observer
Emeritus
May 28th 2018


9408 Comments


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELMIyj5uliI

you're welcome.

Sowing
Moderator
May 28th 2018


43997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Amazing

Atari
Staff Reviewer
May 28th 2018


27975 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

let's burn a hole so we can climb out/of these paper walls in this empty house

Observer
Emeritus
May 28th 2018


9408 Comments


The second half of this is much weaker than the first. I do like cut me, mick and the title track a lot though. IMO Afraid would have made a great single, really underrated song.



DropTune
May 28th 2018


1292 Comments


People say that about most Yellowcard albums. They could've organized their tracks better, but it's not that bad.

Sowing
Moderator
May 28th 2018


43997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah Afraid has an awesome chorus. I remember being surprised at the single selection on this. Album probably could have been more of a commercial success than it was.

DropTune
May 28th 2018


1292 Comments


Yellowcard has always been underrated. "Lights and Sounds" (the single and album) should have been 10x bigger as well.

Atari
Staff Reviewer
May 28th 2018


27975 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Lights and Sounds always reminds me of the Burnout video games, ha. So nostalgic

Sowing
Moderator
May 28th 2018


43997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Way Away always reminds me of Madden 2004

Lucman
May 30th 2018


5537 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Not sure where my head was at when I first spun this record. This is definitely not a 3.5. This is brilliant stuff.

osmark86
May 30th 2018


11423 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

was 21 at the time and on my uni year abroad in the states. used to jam this all the time and it's really become one of my fav yc albums for those memories and the solid songwriting. the takedown is still one of the greatest songs they've done imo.

Sowing
Moderator
May 30th 2018


43997 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Yeah the guitars in The Takedown are unmatched elsewhere in their discography. Overall, that track might have their best instrumental contributions ever between Mendez's riffs and LPIII's brilliant drumming.



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