Saying goodbye is one of the hardest things we have to do in this life. And yet, goodbyes are bittersweet. Just as many of us had to bid a painful farewell to our dear friend Glen on The Walking Dead this past week, and ready ourselves for perhaps a slightly less traumatizing adieu to President Obama as he prepares to vacate the White House after his 8 years of residence.
For nearly 20 long years, Yellowcard has been a major force in the punk-alternative scene, bringing their own unique take on the genre, like using violins in almost every song. Their simple, heartfelt lyrics have helped thousands of fans process their lives in ways they never could have without Yellowcard’s music.
Earlier this year, Yellowcard announced that their performing and recording career has come to an end. After one final world tour and album, dubbed Yellowcard, the band finally called it quits.
Yellowcard’s final album seems to be one giant farewell. Instead of trying to sum up that concept with a singular, concise message, Yellowcard decided instead to make every track a “goodbye.” Though each “goodbye” is unique and attempts to capture what it means from a different angle, it seems that more than anything else their lyrics convey a strong desire to find resolution and reconciliation in relationships.
But before the lyrics’ characters call it quits, they want to set things straight. In the opening track, “Rest in Peace,” frontman Ryan Key passionately asks, “If you could go back now, would you say it differently?/ If there was no one there, would you open up for me?/ If this was the last time that we would ever speak/Could we forgive somehow, could we let it rest in peace?”
The concept of forgiveness also seems to resonate in the memorable track, “The Hurt is Gone.” Meanwhile, the rest of the album focuses on the conflicting feelings surrounding farewells and the nostalgia involved with looking back over the band’s career. Songs like, “I’m a Wrecking Ball,” along with major album standouts, “A Place We Set Afire,” and the rousing seven minute finale, “Fields and Fences,” all acutely evoke a wistfulness for the past.
While not the most catchy or exciting song on the album, the lyrical and thematic centerpiece of Yellowcard seems to be “Leave a Light On,” a tender, slow paced track in the middle of the album. It knits the tracks together, as the narrator calls out to someone with whom he has experienced years of conflict with, offering forgiveness and pleading with them to come back so they can find reconciliation. This track seems to show Yellowcard doing some reflection and evaluation on their career: “Did I teach you to be humble?/ Did I help you to grow?/ Did I fill you with forgiveness?/Was it me made you go?”
Yellowcard still shows strong traces of their punkish roots, but this album in essence is no punk album. It is very much an alternative rock album and sounds similar to their 2014 album, Lift a Sail, in that both are heavily produced and every effort is made to pluck at the heartstrings of listeners. As always, Ryan Key’s vocals are easy to listen to and, unlike most punk rock singers, isn’t grating or exhausting after extensive listening. It is obvious he lays it all out on this album though, albeit in a careful and calculated manner: he manages to relay the tricky emotions of the album without going over the top.
Though “goodbyes” are hard and unpleasant, they are an inescapable reality in this life. Yellowcard has left their mark on the music industry with a memorable nineteen year run, and with their final album, they have taken their final bow with style and grace. Though it is by no means one of the most catchy or exciting albums you’ll listen to all year, it is definitely a good listen— especially for those who have are already fans of the band or the genre.
If you’ve never been into Yellowcard or punk alternative, then there’s really not much here musically that could change your mind. However, you may just find the universal themes and feelings within the songs to be something that resonates with you.