Yellowcard has been my favorite band (alongside Blink-182) for a long time now. It started with the first time I heard their 2001 effort One For The Kids and escalated more and more with each release, to the point where now it's easy to say I am obsessed. Ocean Avenue is one of the few records I can attribute to molding my musical tastes. It was amazing to watch a band that I loved go from playing on WB's Pepsi Smash to being played on MTV's TRL, from searching dozens of record stores for their work to walking into Target and having their music playing in the store. I was eager to see where the 'Card would go from here, after selling 2.5 million records.
It has been a year and a half since I rushed to the store to purchase Lights and Sounds. I remember throwing the CD into my boombox and instantly falling in love with it. My enjoyment for the record was almost automatic, like I was supposed to like it because I had adored all their other releases. A week after its debut, I wrote an overhyped, extremely positive review basically claiming it was the best thing they have ever made.
But it didn't grasp me emotionally like Ocean Avenue did. It didn't have me hanging on every line like The Underdog EP. Not even half the fun of One For The Kids.
That's not to say it isn't a good record ... it's just not a Yellowcard record.
The album opens up with "Three Flights Up", a symphony instrumental track that serves as a build-up to the album's title track. It is clear right off the bat - this isn't the same band that wrote "October Nights" anymore. Yellowcard's riffs, drumming and basslines explode while the violin the group is so noted for takes a backseat to the mayhem...which is much like the rest of the album. The band tones it down a bit with "Down On My Head", a track full of repetitive lyrics and uninspired vocals. One of the biggest problems this CD has is the extreme lack of emotion in lead singer Ryan Key's voice, which seems to be correlated to lackluster lyrics spread throughout the album. It's hard to attach myself to a record that the frontman can't even at least sell himself as being interested in.
"Sure Thing Falling" is a highlight of the album, but lyrics such as 'He likes vampires and hitlist radio' bring down the songs' emotional pull. "City of Devils" is a alt-ballad that actually turns out to be a moving track, and is complete with a rich, orchestral background. If there is one improvement the band has made - it is without question their showcase of musical ability. Violinist Sean Mackin's arrangements add the layer of feeling that the vocals lack. In reality, the one album that Mackin doesn't appear as much on happens to contain his best work to date. This is easily suggestable in "Rough Landing, Holly", the album's best song. A driving violin line soars over the newly adopted alternative rock sound in a track that pines for the days of Ocean Avenue. Mackin even gets to rock out himself with a wailing violin solo at the end.
Sadly, "Two Weeks From Twenty" reminds us that this still isn't the band's best work. Without question the most polarizing part of Lights and Sounds, it is a jazzy, mellow piece that is miles apart (see what I did there?) from the band's eariler work. It is Yellowcard's worst song to date, and defines the biggest problem with the record by far...Yellowcard is just trying too hard with this album. It's too hard for the listener (and for me) to buy into their 'mature' sound because it feels too forced. I've never expected the band to transcend their genre or be the next Pink Floyd, and Lights and Sounds is proof that they shouldn't try to be anything else. A band should evolve sooner or later, sure...but let it be a natural evolution.
"Waiting Game" and "Martin Sheen or JFK" follow - the former containing more orchestral greatness, the latter a bouncing anthem. "Space Travel" brings us back a little bit to the sound of the Underdog EP, as Key swoons and the band keeps it simple. Dirty sounding guitar riffs and depressing lyrics fittingly describe "Grey". "Words, Hands, Hearts" is a rather boring song containing country-like twangs and booming drums.
Next is "How I Go", a tribute to the film 'Big Fish' featuring Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. Her voice is actually great for the song - an epic ballad filled to the brim with symphonies and pianos. Key and Maines' voices flow well together and they at least sell themselves as a good team. The album closes just how it began with "Holly Wood Died", a thrashing track complete with a guitar solo and a lead-out similar to "Three Flights Up".
The album itself is still really good, despite its flaws. Yellowcard are better than ever musically ("City of Devils", "How I Go") and there are a few gems ("Rough Landing, Holly") to boot. The lack of emotion, lack of violin, medicore lyrics, and the excess effort in straying away from the pop sound this band is known for really overshadow the album to the point where only diehard Yellowcard fans (such as myself) will really enjoy it. All bias aside - I think the album is at least worth a listen to those that have heard the band's eariler work. Every band has that polarizing album...and this is Yellowcard's In Reverie.
This review is a user submitted review from Of Dust and Nations. You can see all of Of Dust and Nations's submitted reviews here.
It's not that it isn't their best effort, it's just different, it's a different side of the band, and hell, I enjoy it, I enjoy their classic punk side and this.
There's a lot of great fantastic things in L&S that make up for the flaws.
Really depends on who you ask because so people like the darker side of music which is what this was about but i dont really like dark lyrics and shit like that so it was kind of a letdown. I enjoyed it for a while but never really could stick with it. Paper Walls makes up for it
I love Lights and Sounds, especially the title track, Sure Thing Falling, and Rough Landing, Holly. I kinda wish they had a few better songs on it, and seen how much bigger the band could've gotten from that point, they'd be where FOB is right now. But Paper Walls is very solid, and should help them.