Yellowcard - Ocean Avenue (Acoustic)
Release Date: August 12, 2013
Record Label: Hopeless Records
I wouldn't really call this a "review" per se, but instead maybe a personal perspective on this release. I didn't see much of a point in critiquing a new version of a well-known album, so this is what came out.
I unfortunately was not paying much attention to punk music before 2003. That's just a fact. I listened to Bruce Springsteen because my dad did and I listened to Backstreet Boys because who didn't in their pre-teen years? Don't judge me. Some albums sprinkled my interest in, ahem, "alternative rock," but nothing really grabbed my attention like Ocean Avenue did. Ocean Avenue inspired me, for the first time ever, to take an active approach toward music. It made me search for similar sounds and led me to Sticks and Stones (and, once a friend showed me Dookie, a lifetime ruined by punk music).
I think the record that first makes you an active music listener is one of the most important albums of your life. Perhaps it isn't always one of your favorite albums, but it's certainly a mile marker for a young music fanatic. Luckily for me, Yellowcard turned into one of my favorite bands; for a very long time (from Ocean Avenue until my freshman year of college, when the band was in the thick of its hiatus), they were my absolute favorite band. Lights and Sounds and Paper Walls were among the first records I remember wanting to buy on their release dates.
I remember driving (only months after getting my first car) to the Target near my house at 6am; I had woken up early to make this stop on the way to an early day at my first summer job. It was the day Paper Walls came out, and I was so eager to hear it that I wanted to listen on the way to work; I couldn't very well wait until my shift was over to experience whatever the band had created. But Target hadn't stocked its new releases yet, and I had to wait.
Before Yellowcard, before Ocean Avenue, there was simply no reason for me to care about music in that way…the way anybody who is reading this cares about music now. So, for this band…a band that I have now met in person on multiple occasions, a band that has provided me with one of the most surreal relationships to come out of this "music journalism" gig…to revisit a record that I hold so dear, as dear as any other…this is something that brought about a great conflict of emotions. Yellowcard's most recent work shows that the band is clearly as talented as it ever was during its heyday; perhaps even more so. But tackling a project like this, where a band is essentially tinkering with its most definitive work, requires grace and skill that is beyond the scope of many groups in this genre.
This acoustic rendition of Ocean Avenue is by no means perfect. By no means is it a replacement for the original release. But the point of this isn't to be perfect or replace something that, for some people, is irreplaceable. The purpose of this release, in my eyes, is to showcase a new point of view. Yellowcard is not the band it was in 2003, freshly uprooted from its home state of Florida and transplanted to Los Angeles. The men in this band are no longer young upstarts in a newly blossoming genre, but veterans who have seen highs and lows come to their industry and their personal lives. This acoustic rendition of Ocean Avenue is about perspective.
So it is, by nature, a blunder to approach this release expecting something equal or similar to Ocean Avenue's original incarnation. It is a mistake to expect to relive the soaring chorus of "Only One" the same way you experienced it when you were __teen years old. This is not the same band playing; you are not the same person listening. Certainly, parts of this record feel dated now. Perhaps some parts won't appeal to you as much now as they did when you were younger. But other pieces will provide the opposite feeling. Maybe the lyrics in "Life of A Salesman," this time accompanied by softer, rolling percussion, will strike you differently. Maybe Ryan Key's new take on "View From Heaven" hits you a little harder because of an experience or two you've had over the course of the last decade. Maybe hearing that piano on "One Year, Six Months" makes you consider the song in a light you very well may have never seen it in if it weren't for this release.
That's the point of this. Not to redo, not to rewrite….not even to re-imagine, although it's clear to see the re-imagination in these rewritten songs. The point isn't to re-experience, but to reconsider. See new things in songs you may already know like palm of your hand. If you remember the first time you heard the initial explosive quality of "Way Away," you can't expect for Yellowcard to one-up that. You can't expect something better; you can't expect something as good. But you can expect something different, something new, something rewarding, something unique and magnificent.
The end result here is something that's much more than an acoustic rendition of one of pop-punk's most iconic works. Because Yellowcard manages to create such an intimacy in its music, and because this band puts such care into its craft…because this acoustic rendition is so well thought out and so well done…the final product is something that digs into your memories. But it doesn't replace those memories. It gives you new ones.
A very well written article, Thomas. I think you highlighted a lot of the general feelings we've experienced with this record. You captured the reimagined tone featured in "Empty Apartment" - and so many other songs all those little nuances in Ryan's voice that fluctuate. You're right - that it's not going to be the same like the first time we bonded with these songs and made those first initial memories, but what's I've experienced is that it's kind of like a layer - whether in Final Cut Pro or Photoshop - you have this file/song open and there's a new layer of depth that adds a luster to the song as a whole.
Also, I give props and credit to C.J. Vanston for that piano rendition of ONe YeaR, SiX MonThs.
And I was impressed with the vocals on "View From Heaven" by Tiffany Villarreal.
They sound pretty comparable to the original female vocalist on the track, Alieka Wijnveldt.
In the booklet, you'll see the write up from each of the members - how Ocean Avenue has been special to each of them, and I was very intrigued to see Ryan Mendez' input, since he was not a member when this album was released, but how he came to love, learn, and represent some of these songs every night - that were once gems just heard in a van 10 years ago.
With that being said, I just watched Beyond Ocean Avenue: Live at the Electric Factory the DVD last week - and I'm curious what Ben Harper's and Pete's memories are about the album - how it still has shapes their lives in some way shape, or form - even if that chapter of their lives has ended. I saw on the DVD that Pete played the piano parts for "Only One" which was an interesting fun fact to pick up on.
Ryan Key phone interview (that's in the podcast section) which Ryan touches on a lot of these issues - how Sean the Bassist - it was an amicable split. Even though that interview is almost a year old there's definitely a lot to pick up from that - and it made me wonder what a new Yellowcard DOC would look like these days. Each member definitely has had their share of trials and triumphs in each of their life stories.
"I think the record that first makes you an active music listener is one of the most important albums of your life. Perhaps it isn't always one of your favorite albums, but it's certainly a mile marker for a young music fanatic."