Last year Yellowcard were something of a revelation to me. Not for any particularly meaningful reason, just that I was given their single Hang You Up to review and I was expecting some cheesy slice of overly sentimental, saccharine, American radio rock, and that was exactly what I got. Except it was also absolutely wonderful for those very same reasons. Against all notions of taste, Yellowcard proved to me that great songs can be found anywhere you’re willing to look. Not bad for a band that had never troubled me before then and I promptly never encountered again until now, with their new album, Southern Air. I’m coming into this with an awful lot less trepidation than before, expecting good songs shining through despite the standard tropes of American pop-punk/emo/radio-rock (delete where appropriate) rearing there often ugly head. Again, that’s pretty much what I got, but now it’s not a surprise… And that could kneecap the album where it stands.
You see, once the fact that these songs are good, sometimes very good, becomes clear, not much else about the album really makes it stick out. There are many albums that contain ten or twelve great guitar-pop songs and this particular one doesn’t even have much of Yellowcard’s infamous violin melodies to set it apart from the others. Don’t get me wrong, when it’s good it’s very, very good, opener Awakening is propulsive, melodic and begs on bended knee to be screamed along to by a packed sweat-pit of a venue and if that’s not the dictionary definition of rock and roll in any form you care to mention I don’t know what is. We Are The In Crowd front woman Tay Jardine assists on other high point Here I Am Alive but the track does symbolize the point where the album starts to go through the motions. The riffs are similar, the lyrics are pretty identically “Oh woe is me, life is really tough sometimes”, they explode when they should and rein it in when it should. It’s good, but very samey.
Until penultimate track Ten, which acts as the sensitive acoustic ballad of the album, except with none of the charm and melody that made Hang You Up so great. The album saves face with the closing title track, which is easily the heaviest thing on the album but the damage has been done, fans will lap up this album but it won’t be enough to win new converts. At this point in their career no-one can blame Yellowcard for that, but after the Hang You Up’s promise, I won’t lie to you, dear reader, it’s a little disappointing.