Yellowcard: Paper Walls Review

Yellowcard is a unique and innovative pop punk band not only because of their catchy and fun brand of alternative rock, but also because of the frantic violin they add as secret ingredient to the formula, giving their music a lively and enjoyable feel. After taking the nation by storm with Ocean Avenue, their first major-label record back in 2003, the band hit a disappointing snag with Lights And Sounds, their worst effort since the group’s formative years. There was justifiable concern when they announced the release of a new album just a little over a year after their disillusioning fourth album. However, Paper Walls not only redeemed Yellowcard’s music and reputation, it also surpassed their best work yet by a long shot. Old fans of the classic Ocean Avenue and even casual fans who still scream out the words of “Ocean Avenue” every time it plays on the radio may cling to their disbelief, but there is no doubt that Paper Walls is the quintessential Yellowcard album. The band’s fifth album reinvigorated life not only in the group itself, but in the pop punk/alternative rock genre as a whole. This is Yellowcard at its liveliest, funnest and most energetic, making for a ambitious, addicting and completely masterful album. Lead singer Ryan Key continues to dazzle with vocals clearly meant for this genre, Sean Mackin’s insanely frenetic violin-playing adds flair to every track and the frenzied drumming of Longineu Parsons III keeps the tempo upbeat and engaging. Combine this with earnest and memorable lyrics and you have Yellowcard at their finest and most appealing.

Standout Tracks

“Light Up The Sky” serves as the album’s first single and possibly Yellowcard’s catchiest song since “Ocean Avenue.” The chorus and steady drum beat are simple enough, and even Mackin’s violin sections are seemingly reserved, but a song as absorbing and satisfying as this doesn’t need much to make itself the best track of the album. The guitars plug away along with Peter Mosely’s bass as Key delivers the straight-forward but heartfelt chorus “Let me light up the sky / Light it up for you / Let me tell you why / I would die for you.” There are no convoluted concepts here, just effortless enjoyability, which is what Yellowcard does best.

“Afraid” starts with the twang of guitars and an uptempo drum beat as most Yellowcard songs do, but it quickly becomes clear the star of this song is Mackin with some unbelievably staggering violin riffs. Key once again delivers perfectly pitched vocals and every blazing guitar riff is on point to create a perfect frenzy of activity, but the violin adds that extra touch that sets “Afraid” (and Yellowcard as a whole) apart.

“You And Me And One Spotlight” edges out the other three ballads of Paper Walls as the most captivating and emotional work the band has done since “Only One.” Reserved strings and vocals from Key set the calm and heartfelt tone before escalating into the chorus filled with the steady pound of the drums and strum of the guitars. Yellowcard may be known for playing a genre of music that is growing increasingly one-dimensional, but a poignant and diverse ballad like this sheds some light on the extend of this band’s talent as Key wails the most sincere lines of the album: “Say you will be all around me / When your body sets your heart free / Say you’ll get me through the ending / Take my body, set my heart free.”

The Verdict

From the throbbing guitars of Ryan Mendez in the album’s opener, “The Takedown” to the poignant closer “Paper Walls,” Yellowcard exceeded expectations and  cast a shadow over the remainder of their past and future work. Simply put, it might be impossible for them to outdo Paper Walls. The genre of pop punk has become overdone and hollow, but an album as infectious, clever and energetic as this acts as a beacon for the world of pop punk, breathing life into an area of music that grows increasingly stale. The furious guitar strumming, fast-paced drumming, Mackin’s absurd jaw-dropping violin pieces and Key’s addictive vocals are just the tip of this masterpiece of an iceberg. The writing and lyrics behind each song are simple, but heartfelt and relatable enough to make for some truly classic songs no matter what genre. There are no let downs here; Paper Walls is exceptional from start to finish. “Five Becomes Four” shows the band at its heaviest to display their undeniable ability to rock out while ballads like “Keeper” and “Shadows And Regrets” reveal the reflective and profoundly heartfelt side of the music. Even “Dear Bobbie,” which features the overdone narration of an old man telling his love story, comes off as sweet and moving in its own way. Picking standout tracks for an album such as this is close to pointless, because each and every track differs from the last and ultimately elevates the experience. Fans of bands like New Found Glory, Sum 41, Sugarcult, The Starting Line, Cartel, Amber Pacific, Blink-182, All Time Low, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Jimmy Eat World will be right at home with this album. And while older fans of the genre may find it difficult to believe, but the words aren’t any less true: Paper Walls is the best Yellowcard album and one of the greatest pop punk efforts of all time.

Final Score: 10/10

Rank: 1st (eight total albums)

Track List

  1. The Takedown
  2. Fighting
  3. Shrink The World
  4. Keeper
  5. Light Up The Sky
  6. Shadows And Regrets
  7. Five Becomes Four
  8. Afraid
  9. Date Line (I Am Gone)
  10. Dear Bobbie
  11. You And Me And One Spotlight
  12. Cut Me, Mick
  13. Paper Walls


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