Soundcheck: Yellowcard – Southern Air
Album: Southern Air
Best Tracks: “Awakening” and “Always Summer”
By Mykel Vernon-Sembach
There are always biases against bands that reemerge a decade after falling into the ashes of middle school yearbooks: one-hit wonders that never know when to give up and who sell themselves out and, ultimately, sell short. Some are capable of beating the odds and coming out above all the scathing criticisms, but most often, many of these teenybopper bands retell a modern-day Icarus. They fly too close to the spotlight, they break a string, their voice cracks, and are suddenly lost in a sea of infinite has-beens.
Understandably, fans of Yellowcard hope to see them triumph once again by way of their latest album, Southern Air. Yellowcard listeners want proof the band are more than just a soundtrack to awkward chaperoned boy/girl dances. While Yellowcard has, indeed, grown past their first release and their chart-topping “Ocean Avenue,” it is tough to say if they have grown better or worse.
They start off Southern Air off with “Awakening;” suddenly their immature punk Blink-182 influences have fallen away to reveal a clean crew-cut pop quintet singing about yet another toast to a forlorn love. Thanks to the simple rhyming scheme and generalized melody, “Awakening” is made to be a glorified sing-a-long for inebriated twenty-somethings reliving their teen angst, hoping to “awake” from their drunken stupor sans hangover.
The pattern repeats itself until the fourth track, “Here I Am Alive.” An inspirational track with hand claps, white noise drum kit/guitar and crescendoed “PC” strings make this track slightly different from the first four, but not by much. Once again, they attempt to inspire their brokenhearted fans, implying bad things in life will always pass and if lead singer/guitarist Ryan Key can do it, so can they! A bleeding heart isn’t much of a beating heart and, thusly, makes “Here I Am Alive” more or less a funeral march than an uplifting self-esteem anthem. With a line like, “They say you don’t grow up / you just grow old / it’s safe to say I haven’t done both,” it is safe to say that this track isn’t a learning experience, but a right to say, “see how much I’ve gone through to get here.”
“Sleep in the Snow” has little to say, with the exception Key’s calling out of a cold-hearted romantic partner for the rejection of his open, albeit bleeding, heart. All is forgivable, however, because he knows that they will be back eventually – the song was pretty normal up until these last two lines.
The blame game continues through “A Vicious Kind,” wherein the victim serenades the defendant with an “I tried.” “Telescope” is simply filler, with the clever line, “You’re my only hope / you’re my telescope.” Lastly, “Rivertown Blues” is as bluesy as any track by Fall Out Boy or Taking Back Sunday.
Overall, Southern Air lacks any of the vivaciousness or originality – or awesome violin solos – of Ocean Avenue or even their sophomore release Lights and Sounds. Then again, one should not expect much of a record containing album art looking like Instagram-ed stock photo off of Getty Images.