REVIEW: YELLOWCARD – OCEAN AVENUE ACOUSTIC

yellowcard-ocean-avenue-acoustic
Reviewed by Mark Plummer
2013 would appear to be the year of the anniversary. Brand New, Fall Out Boy and Blink-182 have or will have had releases that hit the ten-year milestone before 2013 ends. Whilst these are some pretty big names, one band from Jacksonville, Florida, have an anniversary release that is eponymous within its genre. Yellowcard may not be selling out arena tours, but the acoustic anniversary edition of Ocean Avenue has been eagerly anticipated by the music community, which has put Yellowcard firmly in the spotlight. The heart and soul that Yellowcard have put into the band, along with their non-stop effort since returning from hiatus, certainly adds to the credit of this release and helps to set it apart from Ocean Avenue as not just ‘another acoustic album’, but a release in its own right that must be given the same due care and attention. This is for all purposes, an album that doesn’t need to lean against that release of 10 years ago, but can stand by itself as an iconic part of the band’s catalogue.

Whilst there are defining differences, the vocals on Empty Apartment for example have replaced their gritty rawness with a smoother, more mellow and low-end approach that adds more feeling to the song, the albums most impressive heights are in the songs that were acoustic on the original release, giving a sense of wonder as to how these tracks can transform along with the rest. The originally acoustic, One Year, Six Months, was a challenge to the imagination in how it would differ, yet the innovation of cutting the guitar and using just a piano and violin along with the vocals, completely transfigures what was a beautiful guitar piece into an outstanding and breathtaking song that outstrips its predecessor.

A View From Heaven could also be seen as difficult to build on, the differential lies with the introduction of a banjo in the chorus, a real defining point proving that ingenuity survives in abundance. That’s not to say that this is a pristine and perfect record from start to finish, there could be criticism drawn to the vocals that, on hitting the high-end, feel slightly reedy and alienated without some low to mid range balance. Where the vocals really impress however is in how they come across, exceeding that of the original; a more lively and positive persona adds joy to the vocal tracks and helps to elevate a marked improvement, showing that Ryan Key has become a vibrant and more mature vocalist.

It’d be hard to write this review and not mention both the title track and most famous Yellowcard release: Ocean Avenue. Even with this new spin, it looses none of the heart and fire that first bellowed onto MTV, retaining its summertime flare. The lead guitar cuts through the verses, before the violin replaces it for the chorus, helping to compliment the lead accompaniment in keeping a constant sense of enjambment, from start to finish. The guitar work experienced here is effervescent with the acoustic lead, evolving the heavier Breathing from the start, before Ocean Avenue builds on this and sets the standard early on for the rest to follow.

The drums in this release are of particular importance and help to define the line between the average acoustic release and what is presented here; adding all the flare that metamorphoses not just this track, but the album into something much more special than the 2003 release. Miles Apart, lacks none of the original power in the drum fills that introduce the track and, if anything, make the experience more personal. Longinue Parsons’ contribution is still full on and brings to life this acoustic recording, giving the listener the luxury of being able to feel like they are there watching the band.

What Yellowcard have successfully achieved, is to transform the acoustic stereotype into a platform that incorporates the whole band; thus adding to the claim that this is an album that can stand up on its own two feet. All-in-all, this release is incredibly well-rounded and has a multifunctional appeal. Of course those familiar with its mother record will be eager to pick it up, but there should still be an attraction to anyone who is not familiar with the band, finding the stripped back nature of this album just as enticing and wonderful.

5 out of 5

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