If you’re anything like me, you probably started the day by recognizing that the start of a new work week had indeed arrived and then immediately began shaking your fists at the sky in anger. Monday is rarely anyone’s favorite day, and from what I have seen firsthand it feels safe to say it’s the one day of the week some people outright hate. I guess to them the arrival of the work week symbolizes the end of their quote/unquote freedom, and as a result they head into the office/factory/restaurant/store with a negative outlook already on their mind. This leads to bad attitudes, which only makes the experience of being at work worse, and for some reason it also seems to make time slow to a crawl. We’re not about that life, and we hope this post can do the same you that the song contained within it did for us.
If there was ever a perfect time for a band to make an impression on me it had to be the summer when Yellowcard’s now timeless pop-punk anthem “Ocean Avenue” was first released. I had heard rumblings about the band in the then loosely populated alternative music forums I frequented online, but as a citizen of a rural farming community in a time before social media there wasn’t much in terms of hype on the streets. Heck, there were barely even cars on the streets, let alone buzz about a new film or artist. That’s just not how life worked where I came from, but as soon as I heard those opening chords I knew something special had been created. What I didn’t know, and what I still struggle to define all these years later, is how obsessing over those chords and the people who created them would change my life.
When “Ocean Avenue” first made its way into the new music arena there was not a soul in my hometown who knew it existed. Everyone I knew only listened to what was big at radio, and until “Ocean Avenue” was playing on every Top 40 station within reach (3-4 total depending on the weather) the name Yellowcard meant nothing to anyone in a ten mile radius of my parents’ house except me. Even then, I didn’t really know what Yellowcard meant, or what they would go on to mean for me in the years to come. All I knew was that “Ocean Avenue” was (and is) incredibly catchy, and that was more than enough to convince me to convince my parents they should buy me a copy of the record.
“Ocean Avenue” wasn’t even the best song on the album of the same name from which it hails. In fact, I would argue it’s the third, fourth, or maybe even fifth best song on that record. Still, it’s the song that made people, including myself, give a damn about Yellowcard, and that is more than enough to earn the track a place in the pop-punk hall of fame. It could be argued the band never again had a song as successful as “Ocean Avenue,” but to say they never wrote another song as good as “Ocean Avenue” would be an outright lie. Every Yellowcard album has songs that are better than “Ocean Avenue,” and some of those songs were even released as singles with proper videos and promotional campaigns. Mainstream audiences may not have embraced those songs as much as the band’s first hit, but that is hardly an experience limited to the members of Yellowcard. The same thing could be said about Blink-182 after “What’s My Age Again” or Sum 41 after “Fat Lip.”
The truth of the matter is the nothing beats the feeling of young love, and that idea applies as much to the art we encounter as it does the people we meet. Your first kiss is more memorable than you hundredth kiss primarily because it was the first, just like your love for a band is typically strongest after you first fall for a particular song or album than it is when you’re still listening to the same group two or six albums later. The trick for artists is to remember that every song and/or album may be someone’s first encounter with their art, and because of this every new creation could be the thing that defines your artistic output for that person moving forward. You can play the hits that gave you a platform to reach people for as long as you’re able to perform, but in order to progress you have to continue creating new experiences for people to encounter whenever they discover your music.
And really, that is exactly what Yellowcard did. In the years and albums that followed “Ocean Avenue” the band progressed in ways both thrilling and unpredictable. They experimented harder and softer sounds, wrote songs about growing older as well as clinging to the whatever fleeting feeling of youth may be left, and they always made sure to leave their all on stage. Fans came and fans went, but the band made sure to stay true to themselves in every move they made. They never attempted to repeat what they did on their breakout, but they also were now shy about recognizing how that material had enabled them to be more active in the world of music. The band always knew they were lucky to have had a moment like the one “Ocean Avenue” provided, and unlike many before (and after) them they did not fall into the trap of believing such moments were going to happen again and again throughout their careers. They hoped they would, sure, but deep down they knew the likelihood of having a hit as big as “Ocean Avenue” was as rare as being eaten by a shark while simultaneously being struck by lightning.
When I learned of Yellowcard’s plans to breakup earlier this year there was a part of me that felt as if I understood the reasoning for the group’s exit even before reading their open letter to fans. After twenty years it’s easy to understand why anyone in any career would feel as if they had explored all the possibilities that interested them and said all they had to say. Retirement on one’s own terms is kind of a beautiful thing. It says to the fans that the artistic expression they once admired has been conveyed in full, and that the artist realizes any future contributions may not live up to the high standards they themselves set through previous works. It’s as admirable an exit as anyone in entertainment can make, and it’s one that probably should happen more often than it does.
Having now heard the band’s final album, which <em>I think</em> I am able to discuss now, I have to say that Yellowcard have once again left everything they have on the recording. Anyone saddened by the loss of the band will have this collection of material to comfort them, and those who may have been happy about the group’s exit may find themselves catching feelings of regret should they ever encounter the material that fills this recording. There is an element of honesty to everything Yellowcard does that speaks to the truth they have experienced in their long and undeniably unique adventure through the world of music, and anything listeners may have felt went unsaid in the past is laid bare on this album. This is the kind of final bow we all hope to make when our time in our current fields comes to a close, and I, for one, am happy Yellowcard put in the work needed to make sure it was just right.
This week, I want to urge you to spend time with Yellowcard’s discography. Whether you’re a diehard fan or someone who only knows the hits, dig into each record and lose yourself in the band’s own journey through life. Experience their highs and lows right alongside them and then, when Friday rolls around, set aside time to enjoy their final recordings in full. Pay attention to their attention to detail, and use the feelings of joy their music gives to begin plotting your next creative endeavor. As far as I am concerned, hearing what this incredible band has to say on an album they know is their last is the best motivation you’re going to find this week. If you can top it, please let me know.
James Shotwell is the Digital Marketing Manager for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder of Antique Records (RIP). Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.