It’s a bit odd that Yellowcard’s comeback hasn’t garnered nearly the fervour that it probably should. This is a return from a full-on breakup, not a hiatus, and for one of the defining pop-punk bands of the 2000s, that’s not nothing. Though, to speculate, the reasons could be twofold—a) the focus of this reunion has primarily been celebrating Ocean Avenue’s 20th anniversary, and b) the notes that Yellowcard initially left on might still seem too sour to come back to regularly.
Now, for the former, that’s understandable. Ocean Avenue is one of the seminal pop-punk albums of its era—and probably one of the genre’s best, full stop—to where a big milestone is going to take up a not-insignificant portion of the spotlight its band is offering. The latter, however, is a bit trickier, because it isn’t really giving Yellowcard their dues. Their last couple of outings may have trended more towards alt-rock that didn’t click so well for some, but it was never lazy or predictable. It can be read as emblematic of a long-running band with ambitions to grow beyond their roots, and having the courage to embrace that, popular consensus be damned, is definitely a good thing. It’s the opposite of the pure, uncut nostalgia that’s formed the basis of Yellowcard’s return so far, to where the two in tandem can be taken to mean an embrace of their best, without being strongarmed by it.
Which all leads to Childhood Eyes, a comeback EP back to full height in a way that totally benefits where they are as a band. That is to say, it leans on the exact thesis statement posed earlier—a healthy mix of all what’s made Yellowcard who they are (to a point; they’ve not quite leaned as far as their earliest hardcore-punk strides). Though that also means their last lots of material do get a look in, such as how opener Three Minutes More can feel a little too in the pocket of Lift A Sail’s lack of…well, lift. Otherwise, it’s a pretty joyous return that arguably feels like everything a fan would want from Yellowcard now. Critically, it’s not just Ocean Avenue all over again, but there are moments where its same sparkle will bubble through; additionally, there’s a maturity and sure-rootedness in its ideas that act as key steps taken forwards.
That’s not to say it’s wholly experimental—you’d be unlikely to get this confused for anyone other than Yellowcard—but it’s at a place where these ideas should be this deep into their career. The title track and Hiding In The Light are closest to that classic sound, except fitted with some more bite to reflect the older, more wizened perspective from which they’re told. Meanwhile, Honest From The Jump soars and crashes with real pop-rock bombast, with the aplomb of a band fully experienced in eking every bit of potential from the style. It all just sounds suitably massive on top of that; even Three Minutes More, in which more driving, down-to-earth punk is at its core (as well as a guest appearance from Pierce The Veil’s Vic Fuentes that doesn’t really amount to much), packs in enough whirling drama to leave its impression.
On top of that, it’s just great to hear Yellowcard hitting the ground running again. In that sense, it feels as though they’ve never left, particularly on the title track and Hiding In The Light that slot back into place so cleanly, with a guitar tone that carries a certain 2000s air to it (particularly in the latter’s opening bars), and just how ebullient the band as a whole sound. Ryan Key’s transition to more pared-back, low-key material on his own clearly hasn’t hindered his ability to belt a hook like no one’s business. Likewise, Sean Mackin’s violin contributions remain the band’s killer app, understated but clearly noticeable in bring a fresh dimensionality across the board. Particularly on the acoustic closer The Places We’ll Go, it’s an invaluable part in making that song feel as wistful as it does.
Granted, it’s not Yellowcard’s absolute best, but for where they are as band right now, and the movements made just previously to get here, it’s exactly where they should be. (To touch upon the writing briefly, the central conceit of casting back to the halcyon days of making music and framing a hope for the future around it is a great touch.) Furthermore, it generates the most excitement around this band in a good long time, especially for how refreshed and ready to create again that they feel. They’ve always been a shining light in pop-punk, and it’s wonderful to see that the passage of time hasn’t dimmed Yellowcard, even by a little bit. If anything, their glow might be beginning to get even brighter.
For fans of: Jimmy Eat World, The Starting Line, Saves The Day
‘Childhood Eyes’ by Yellowcard is released on 21st July on Rude Records / Equal Vision Records.
Words by Luke Nuttall