In Three Songs: Yellowcard
I can almost hear the orchestra of eyes rolling. Yes, I know Yellowcard have a bad reputation as the very worst kind of pop-punk angst purveyors, and even I will admit that I think their last two albums sound like glorified lift music. But they were the band that really introduced me to music. Of course, I’d liked and indeed loved bands and songs before then, but I was fourteen when I first heard Yellowcard, and I fell in love with them. I was at that age where frontmen preaching angst, love, and pseudo-political protest tapped into the middle-class sense of rebellion that was fostered in me by an ex-punk mother (who couldn’t have been less impressed by my choice in music). In retrospect, I can see that they are just pure Americana- a sun-bathed chunk of clever pop. And with that, we begin.
Song One: Underdog
The first song off their first EP, Underdog is so soundly and totally American- the lyrics essentially recounting the plot of a sub-par romcom, and the call-and-response guitar-violin bridge tapping into just the right amount of folk. There’s a lot of spunk in this track, a good indicator of the few albums that would follow. It’s the beer of music- easy to swallow, objectable to no-one, and best served on a sunny day with a cool breeze. Pre-asinine Ocean Avenue (which me and my brother learned to play together, thus becoming the most popular kids in school, obviously), here was the crisp, honest, unfussy bliss Yellowcard churned out.
Song Two: Back Home
Back Home closes the Ocean Avenue album, a CD that’s packed with faced-screwed-up angst and 9/11 memorial songs (I’m still not quite sure how I feel about that). It’s kind of a stunner- lead singer Ryan Key was bucking back against critics of his new sound, lamenting his choice to move away from home, a theme that ran through the next album, Lights and Sounds. He’s captured a snapshot of that dissatisfaction and that doubt, that worry that you made the wrong decision and can’t go back on it. Elegantly constructed and surprisingly grown-up for the frat-boy fivesome, Back Home reflects a universal sentiment, with a cool violin solo to boot.
Song Three: Holly Wood Died
An album closer to bring us home, this one from third album Lights and Sounds. Chucking in their more pop-punky sound for an insane orchestral piece of balls-to-the-wall rock, Holly Wood Died works well both as an individual track and as part of a bigger picture. This is the finest display of their musicality to date thanks to that insane orchestra outro (composed by underrated violinist Sean Mackin, one of my first ever celebrity crushes) and the sheer scale of what they’re trying to do. Mashing together a rock song that has a perfectly respectable build-up of it’s own and throwing it against a mess of strings and guitar solos shouldn’t work, but it does. Welcome to being a Yellowcard fan.