A relatively small cult of devoted followers have known for years that Jacksonville’s Yellowcard have what it takes to rejuvenate rock. On their latest, ‘Ocean Avenue,’ Yellowcard are prepared to prove themselves to the fickle and critical masses. The band shows the significant musical improvement and personal growth that has occurred since 2002’s “Underdog EP,” a collection of five songs which failed to capture the band’s charm and creativity. Each song on ‘Ocean Avenue’ stands out from the others and the album as a whole shows the band living up to their full potential. The end result is fresh and relatable sing-along rock with violin accompaniments and an understanding of what Yellowcard is about.
The album’s opener and first single “Way Away,” a song written about wanting to leave Jacksonville for the glitz and promises of California, introduces Yellowcard’s common theme of real life and, to those new to the band, Sean Mackin’s violin, the defining element which separates Yellowcard from the predictable pop punk genre. Mackin later takes vocals on “Twentythree,” a track which, despite the change in vocalist, still fits in with the rest of the record. Longineu Parsons’ drumming, although often overshadowed by the press in favor of the violin and vocals, emerges as the driving force and energy behind the band throughout the entire album, especially evident on “View From Heaven” and “Life of A Salesman.”
“Empty Apartment,” “Only One,” and “Breathing” show maturity in their arrangement and lyricism. Unlike many other singers on the scene lately, Ryan Key’s vocals aren’t whiny and his lyrics aren’t frivolous. Instead, Key writes introspective lyrics relevant to his life and sings clearly in an unoffending voice. Despite the inevitable pop-punk tag, there is nothing irritable about Yellowcard. Last track “Back Home” provides a fitting end to ‘Ocean Avenue’ by looking back at the sacrifices they made to pursue their dreams and realizing that life on the East Coast wasn’t all that bad.
The style of their 2001 Lobster Records debut ‘One For the Kids’ remains intact, but on ‘Ocean Avenue’ Yellowcard realize that “the kids” have grown up and so have they. This concept of maturing musically rather than basking in playful eternal immaturity is key to staying relevant, relatable to their fans, and as prevention from becoming a joke. While many young bands making the leap from indie to major label lose their sincerity and create overproduced and rushed works, Capitol’s support and production by Neal Avron actually bring out the best of Yellowcard. The band remained focused on their music and goals, and the hard work paid off in the form of a great album. Now if only other bands would grow up…