Hopeless, 2016

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


It’s a rare band that gets to say goodbye on its own terms.

News was abundant over summer 2016 that Yellowcard was recording their 10th and final album and calling it quits after 20 years, and in late September the album finally came out. Perhaps the experience of the album will forever be colored by knowing that it’s the end, but it’s tough not to read double meaning into many of the lyrics. “If this was the last time that we would ever speak…could we let it rest in peace?” sings Ryan Key, and he could well be talking to an ex-girlfriend or his loyal fans.

Most people remember Yellowcard as one of the pop-punk-emo bands that littered the landscape at the turn of the century, in the same vein as Dashboard Confessional, Jimmy Eat World, Blink-182, Simple Plan and so forth; their major-label debut my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Ocean Avenue was a hot seller in 2003 because of this, but it wasn’t a sound that seemed destined to last (especially once Green Day rewrote the rules with American Idiot). If you’ve never been a fan of this sound – the whiny vocals still grate on me, personally – then Yellowcard won’t fully change your mind.

However, the sincerity, maturity, and tight musicianship of these guys is evident no matter your level of fandom. If this is what punk-poppers sound like all grown up, I may rethink my aversion to the genre. “Leave A Light On” is absolutely lovely, a piano ballad with Sean Mackin’s impressive violin work (this band’s secret weapon) and Key’s wistful vocals. “Got Yours” and “Savior’s Robes” roar with punk intensity and “The Hurt Is Gone” chugs with a latter-day Pearl Jam intensity, riding its groove for six minutes before fading out on a single low note.

And although “Empty Street” is pretty run-of-the-mill musically, lines like “I won’t be with you, but I won’t be far away” are destined to evoke emotion from fans of any stripe. “Wrecking Ball” will do the same for any father and husband; appropriately, the song features a hushed folky acoustic guitar and nothing else, and it’s a highlight. Equally so is the near-epic seven-minute closer “Fields And Fences,” as clear a mission statement and a goodbye as one can make: “I got used to being the star of the show / But I've seen the lights come and go…I want to start living / I want to be brave / I want to find where I belong.” The song ends with an elegiac violin solo as the album, and the band, fade away.

To be sure, those who liked the band from the outset and wish they would keep making Ocean Avenue will likely think this a bit too slow, too mature, but Key and the guys know they aren’t 22 anymore. They have said what they needed to say, and now they are saying goodbye, and even if Yellowcard isn’t a stone classic or even an easy listen, it’s as good a final statement as any modern band has made.

Rating: B

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© 2016 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Hopeless, and is used for informational purposes only.