When Yellowcard announced its hiatus in 2008, the popular opinion was that the band was done for good. Listeners who felt as though they would never hear another record from the Jacksonville, Fla., five-piece pop-punk innovators were definitely not alone. While the band was only gone for just over two years ― not that long of a break in the grand scheme of things ― plenty of signs pointed to the conclusion that they were finished. Frontman Ryan Key started a new band called Big If, Longineu Parsons was drumming for other projects, and the other members of the group were strewn across the country each doing their own things. Capitol Records even came out with a weird four-track EP of previously released Yellowcard material entitled Deep Cuts.
But, true to their word, the band reformed and the hiatus really was just a break. When clues started popping up about a reunion ― Parsons vaguely mentioning a new record in an interview, a host of unreliable news articles, underground rumblings that the band was looking for a new label ― longtime fans found themselves ecstatic.
Fans will find their excitement only grows when they hear Yellowcard’s highly anticipated fifth studio album, When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes. The band’s first release for California’s Hopeless Records is something of a return to the sound that made Yellowcard a crossover sensation with 2003’s Ocean Avenue. However, the group hasn’t regressed at all, taking bits and pieces of 2006’s Lights and Sounds and their 2007 opus, Paper Walls. While When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes doesn’t have the dark undertones or bold ambition of Paper Walls, it does show one very important thing: Yellowcard is back, and they’re back for good.
The band’s familiar sound comes flooding back during opener “The Sound of You and Me.” The slicing guitar riffs provided by Key and Ryan Mendez and the pounding drum fills from Parsons enter the void immediately. New bassist Sean O’Donnell makes his presence felt on the opening track and throughout the record with steady bass lines and backup vocals that nicely accentuate Key’s sky-high vocals. In the chorus, Key belts out, “Someday, everything ends / Can we begin finding our way back / Before we’re too late and lost in between / The truth and the dream? / I’ve never been more ready to move on.”
It’s an ideal opener to the group’s comeback record, paced by aggressive guitar and drum work. Although Sean Mackin’s violin isn’t heard until midway through the track, it’s well worth the wait. The band slows down for a huge build-up, and a classic Yellowcard breakdown ― foot-stomping guitar bursts over a grandiose violin ― carries the song out.
”For You, And Your Denial” and “With You Around” provide a powerful one-two punch as a couple of the catchiest songs on the record. The former is the first released single, a track that was rightly compared to the Ocean Avenue era. The latter follows along those same lines, featuring the best hook on When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes. Key soars as he belts out, “All I can think about is you and me driving with the Saves The Day record on / We were singing till our voices were gone / And I was falling hard / You were barely hanging on / And now I wanna chase forever down with you around.” Good luck not singing along by your third listen.
The heartfelt “Hang You Up,” a re-done version of a song originally written by Key and O’Donnell for Big If, serves as an excellent segway into the strongest part of the record. “Life Of Leaving Home,” “Hide” and “Soundtrack” are the three most impressive tracks on When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes, and they come in a triple-shot of pop-punk goodness. The band gets stronger on each track, as Key’s vocals and Mackin’s violin parts specifically get better and better throughout each chorus and bridge. Meanwhile, Parsons’ drum fills are still the backbone of the group. Yellowcard’s chemistry and cohesion ultimately sets them apart from their peers, putting them at an elite level, and Neal Avron’s underlining production is the glue that holds everything together.
”Soundtrack” is the album’s standout, and listeners catch a breather immediately after it with “Sing For Me.” This is another slow song, and it proves to be the closest instance to a stumble on the album. By itself, the song is replayable, but in the flow of the record it kills the momentum built by the previous three tracks. The song is still worthy of a listen, and it leads into two high-octane closing songs.
Of the two, “See Me Smiling” is catchier, but “Be the Young” is the better track, a quality closing to the record. Yellowcard shows its noted ability to slow down verses and lead them into epic choruses, as repeated cries of, “We’ll forever be the young” carry out the album. The song continues Yellowcard’s legacy of having strong closers, and that repeated message is an appropriate one to leave behind in the minds of listeners.
When You’re Through Thinking, Say Yes isn’t Yellowcard’s best work, as Paper Walls still retains that title in my mind, but it’s exactly the album that fans should be hoping for. In essence, the record is a holistic recap of the band’s career that still shows good progression. In a year that has been and will continue to be marked by huge releases in the genre, this group will firmly hold its ground with this album. Yellowcard’s hiatus was not their end, and this record should not come across with any sort of finality. Rather, we’re witnessing the beginning of a new chapter of this band’s story.