Yellowcard’s self-titled final album dropped a week ago today. Fortunately, I didn’t have to work so I was able to go out and buy it pretty much as soon as I woke up. I got to spend the day listening to it, like spending an afternoon with an old friend you haven’t seen in a while, talking until the day’s rain drowned out the conversation.
I mentioned back in July how the band kind of accompanied me growing up and as I’ve changed, so too has the band. While I might not always have responded with their own artistic changes over the years, I’ve still respected them as artists.
So, nostalgia and personal sentiment aside, how is Yellowcard as an album?
Fans of the band’s more frenetic pop punk sound might be disappointed with this final offering. Yellowcard isn’t an album to play on a sunny day at the beach; it’s a very subdued, reflective album. Whether that’s because of the departure of original drummer Longineu Parsons III or just a sign of the band’s changing style is anyone’s guess. That’s not to say there are no fast-paced songs on the record, though. First single and opening track “Rest in Peace” has a really great start, but—despite violinist Sean Mackin’s soaring strings—the energy just stays at one level and never really goes anywhere. It made me long for the energized openers of 2007’s Paper Walls or 2011’s When You’re Through Thinking Say Yes. I would have even preferred an orchestral opening, not unlike “Three Flights Up” from 2006’s Lights & Sounds or even “Convocation” from 2014’s much maligned Lift a Sail. For me, the best song from the first half is “Got Yours”, probably the punk-est, rockiest song on the entire album. It’s an homage to the band’s beginning and recalls the energy of tracks like “Rough Landing, Holly” or “Afraid”. In time, it might become one of my favorites.
While I struggled to connect with the first half of Yellowcard, the latter half, what I’d call the B-side, is terrific.
The second single “The Hurt is Gone” opens this second half. Much like the album opener, the track never really goes anywhere, but by the time you get to it, you already know this isn’t a bombastic pop album. With that in mind, the track becomes a great song, like Silversun Pickups filtered through The Slip. It’s the kind of song you blare with the windows down while driving through sleepy streets.
As a longtime fan, one of the gems is “Empty Street”, a rerecording of a 2009 track from Big If, a side band lead singer Ryan Key and former Yellowcard bassist Sean O’Donnell put together while Yellowcard was on hiatus. Remixed and not a poor-quality rip from MySpace (I told you it was old), it sounds better than ever. This track is followed by the country-infused “I’m a Wrecking Ball” wherein Key laments that he’s a tired loner, “a lover with no fire”. The song is filled with so much longing and the musical styling only adds to that.
It’s no coincidence that the last song on the album—literally the last Yellowcard song we’re ever likely to hear—is one of their best. “Fields & Fences” starts as something by Explosions in the Sky before it turns into a kind of folksy, waltzing jig. It’s a slower jam than some of their more recent album closers, like “Southern Air”, that takes its time building into something resembling “Rocket”, another old track from 2003’s The Underdog EP. The titular fields and fences might as well be the open arms of a warm, safe hug—the same arms Key admits to walking away from in “Got Yours”. One of their best closings, the exploding momentum eventually resolves itself with Mackin’s wonderful orchestral arrangement. Before you’re ready for the song to end, the last note languidly rolls out of the speakers and cozily nestles itself into your ear forever.
Yellowcard is many things. It’s a farewell to regrets and missed opportunities. It’s a celebration of friends and fun times. It’s an album full of life that tries to reconcile where the band has been with where they are now, something I think every listener can relate to. Each track is filled with a longing for a home the band can’t wait to get back to, a sentiment that’s an echo of Ocean Avenue’s final track, “Back Home”. After almost twenty years of making music for us—the fans—I think they’re well overdue to make something for themselves.
As one of those fans, I sincerely thank you for the music, Yellowcard. “I don’t have much that I can give to you, but I know I love the way you make me feel …”
Ross works as a Clerk at the Mt. Washington branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. He loves reading books and watching movies and will often ramble about the two here. He’s currently covered in blankets listening to Yellowcard’s final album on repeat, trying not to cry a lot and failing.