Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

19° Evanston, IL
Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Paper Walls’ crumbles from the lack of effort

Pop-punk has been dying a slow, embarrassing death over the past few years. While the music from bands like Brand New and The Ataris have become more mature, for better or worse, other bands have eschewed any real sophistication in a plea to become more marketable.

Fall Out Boy is currently at number 15 on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart thanks to a song featuring no vowels in its title; scenesters five years ago could find the group in a Wilmette basement, today adolescent fans sip mineral water with eyes peeled for Jay-Z in Fall Out Boy’s faux-scene downtown New York City bar.

Other bands that exploded around the same time as Fall Out Boy have met with more limited success. Yellowcard, for instance, has endured a bitter line-up change and lackluster album since 2003’s “Ocean Avenue.” With its combination of punchy guitars, whiny lyrics and copious violin fiddling, the album became a MTV hit. “Lights and Sounds,” the 2006 follow-up to the double platinum “Ocean Avenue,” was a poor selling and even more poorly reviewed disappointment. The over-produced and annoying concept album tried too hard to be another American Idiot, but the idiots weren’t fooled this time.

After firing their founding guitarist, Yellowcard is back with a surprising album that is almost innocuous enough to be good. Paper Walls opens with the rollicking Takedown that combines everything to be loved about pop-punk into one song- a quick tempo, catchy chorus and melodic guitar line craft a no-brains, all-fun summer blast. The next few songs follow the same blueprint. Fighting and Shrink the World share the same exact structure, each about vocalist Ryan Key dealing with how explosively his last album bombed. When Key at his whiniest groans, “I want you to love me, I want you to leave me,” it is kind of shallow but perversely endearing. If you want real emotional content, you should probably put this album aside and listen to Conor Oberst impute feelings to a middle-aged woman.

The rest of the album, without surprise, is mediocre. “Dear Bobbie” is one of the most irritating songs of the year, a piano-backed ballad featuring Key’s grandfather pretending he is the star of The Notebook. Believe me, he is no James Garner or Ryan Gosling. “Shadows and Regrets,” “You and Me and One Spotlight” and “Paper Walls” are generic, worthless violin-infused ballads.

Like most pop-punk bands, Yellowcard’s best songs are fast and don’t try to be about anything besides broken hearts. Even a couple of the faster songs sound contrived and ridiculous, like the nu-metal leaning “Cut me, Mick.”

There are a few interesting songs on “Paper Walls,” but the slower tracks kill the pacing and tone of what could have been a better record. Yellowcard indulges in too many of the pejorative cliches that haunt modern pop-punk, like juvenile sentimentality and gratuitous overproduction.

“Paper Walls” is just another chance to ask yourself what the hell has happened to the pop-punk heroes of yore.

Reach Andrew Sheivachman at [email protected].

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Paper Walls’ crumbles from the lack of effort