“…very much a record of hope and finding yourself again. It’s after you’ve come through all of that – going to the height of it – and picking yourself back up again. And by “hitting rock bottom” I don’t mean in record sales or fame or any of that shit. I mean personally – emotionally…Paper Walls is the story, the feeling, of what it’s like to be out of those holes, looking back, no regrets, but smarter and having grown through them.”
-Ryan Key, Vocalist/Guitarist of Yellowcard
When most people think of Yellowcard, the first thing that comes to mind are the words “Ocean” and “Avenue.” Whether it be the song or the album, it is clear that the band’s biggest success came from their fourth full-length back in 2003. I, on the other hand, think of the band’s stunning sixth LP Paper Walls. Where Ocean Avenue was the band’s poppy release and Lights and Sounds was their venture into a darker sound, Paper Walls fits quite magnificently in the middle of those two sounds.
To me, Paper Walls is Yellowcard’s magnum opus. A masterpiece, of sorts. It has the abrasive opener (“The Takedown”), the smash hit (“Light Up the Sky”), the sad ballads (“Dear Bobbie” and “Shadows And Regrets”), to-the-point bangers (“Five Becomes Four” and “Shrink the World”) and just an assortment of fantastic alternative rock/pop-punk tracks sprinkled in between.
As a 13-track record clocking in at a song away from 50 minutes, it is astonishing that Yellowcard managed to write an album with absolutely no filler. The varied disposition of Paper Walls is by far the best quality of it. From the buzzing “Cut Me, Mick” to the monumental “Paper Walls,” there is literally never a dull moment to be heard on this record.
Everything about this album is a statement. Whether it be from a musical standpoint or from a lyrical standpoint, each track serves a purpose and much like an appetizing stew, everything comes together to serve as an absolutely stunning product. The somber yet determined “Afraid” flows deliciously into the forceful “Dateline (I Am Gone)” which in turn blends beautifully into the softer “Dear Bobbie.” This, my fellow music lovers, is art.
Individually, the members of this band have never sounded better. Ryan Key’s signature vocals soar as normal, Ryan Mendez rips through verse after verse with what seems to be little to no effort and Longineu Parsons III shows off his brilliant stick work, especially on tracks like “Cut Me, Mick” and “The Takedown” in which he is free to show off his speed. But the one thing that is worth mentioning most from not only this album but the band as a whole is the unique presence of Sean Mackin’s violin: the one blatant thing that sets Yellowcard apart from all the other pop-punk bands in the scene.
Now I’m just going to gush for a second because this is like one of my favorite albums ever.
I know. You’re probably thinking “Uhh…Dylan. Haven’t you been gushing this whole review?” Well, the answer to that question is no. Gushing is me saying how awesome it is when the entire band explodes into a melodic machine during the final chorus of “Shadows and Regrets.” Or how incredibly chilling it is when the children’s chorus opens the final track. Or every damn time that twinkly violin pops up in the verses like on “The Takedown” and “Afraid” and it just instantly takes you back to being young and carefree and…holy shit. I just really love this album, ok?
If it wasn’t clear by that last paragraph, then I have to say once again that this album is incredible. For anyone interested in looking into Yellowcard’s back catalog as the band drops their new album then I suggest you start with Paper Walls. A truly unique listening experience for any fan of pop-punk, big hooks or violins, this record is and always will be a staple in my library. When I think of Yellowcard I think of the quote that started this review off. I think of Paper Walls.