Thursday, 23 August 2012

Review: Yellowcard - Southern Air

 Y'know, I remember there was this time when I saw Yellowcard as this genuinely awesome pop punk band, thanks to the use of massive riffs compacted into intricate pop rock belters on their fourth and their biggest album Ocean Avenue and continued this thought when looking through some earlier and subsequent releases. When discovering the band had emerged from a two year hiatus with the release of last year's When you're Through Thinking, Say Yes, it served as a sign of rejuvenation within the band, and a chance to sharpen up their songwriting and make best use of their unique standpoint in the musical world as a pop punk band that makes use of violins in their songs. Well, that's what I thought, when stepping into the album and as you could imagine, the sloppy, hashed out songs smothered in poppy sweetness that turned the violin into nothing more of a gimmick was quite the disappointment. It's not really done anything to massively set me up for their eighth album Southern Air, which surprisingly, is a shame because as overly sweetly and poppy pop rock albums go, this one's a banger.

 Right from opener Awakening, Yellowcard offer nothing less than the most uplifting feel good moments in all of pop punk music delivered through gargantuan hooks that gives listeners an instant shot of total ecstasy. And as the album rides on, the sunshine just doesn't set at all. Surface of the Sun and Sleep in the Snow soar over the clouds with beefed up riffs from Ryan Key and Ryan Mendez compacted into zippy three minute pop punk belters and with a more prominent appearance from the electric violin skills of Sean Mackin, that compliments the hooks of these new songs, everything provides an overwhelming sense of joy.

 Now granted, there are certainly moments on the likes of Always Summer and Here I Am Alive that the sense of positivity does become a bit too high on the sweetly sugary side. And it becomes somewhat groan inducing. And by the time the band go on a pop punk day out with All Time Low's Alex Gaskarth, We Are the In Crowd's Taylor Jardine and Hey Monday's Cassadee Pope on Telescope the constant hearing of high pitched vocals, including those of Key becomes a little too sugary to the extent that you feel like your drowning in honey. Certainly after the album, I had to seek an instant remedy by listening to some Crowbar.

 But there is more to Southern Air than sweetly pop punk tunes, as I've built it to be so far. A Viscous Kind carries punk riffs along with a firmer more melancholic tone that instantly becomes a more mature and gripping listen, while Key lets out the full extent of his ability to write sad songs with Ten. It's always pop rock bands that sound the saddest when they write overly realistic lyrics about someone that's dead, so when the song's chorus opens with the calling of "You could be ten years old", it's definitely one of the band's most emotionally demanding songs that has clearly taken much courage to write, especially if it's based on real events, I couldn't tell you. Either way it's a fairly tragic and entirely gripping listen.

 That's the basic outline of Southern Air. When the songs aren't emotionally draining ballads, they're epic pop rock belters that will make you feel like you can fly, that certainly prove that the band have managed to pick up from last year's release and prove that their comeback is something worth shouting about after all. While, there isn't necessarily a real standout track on the album - the magnificent Breathing from Ocean Avenue comes to mind wouldn't you believe? - the album of a whole is just fully indestructible pop rock. Just forget any attempts to be badass and feel the joy.

Yellowcard's Southern Air is out now via Hopeless.

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