I played soccer for a number of years when I was younger, and it seems like at least twice a game the ref would throw out the yellow card. It was usually a small trip or a bit of shoving that would warrant the card, where as the hard slide tackles from behind or malicious kicks to the legs were given the red card. It was because of this that I still regard yellow carding as being pretty wimpy, and Jacksonville, Florida’s pop-punk notables Yellowcard have done nothing to change this tradition of wimpery. Well, believe it or not, Yellowcard haven’t always been token pop-punk MTV darlings, and Where We Stand takes you back to those humble beginnings of the late 1990’s.
Those humble beginnings included a vastly different sound from what the band is putting out today; it’s not a complete 180, but save the inclusion of the violin in various spots, you’d be hard pressed to say they’re the same band. Ben Dobson and Todd Clary had a lot to do with their sound of old, as the singer and guitarist, respectively, are no longer in the band, but it’s those two musicians who put all the bite in back then that the band is currently lacking. Dobson’s scruffy, rough-around-the-edges vocal approach gave this band some toughness that it’s sorely lacking in their current incarnation. The gritty guitar playing fuels a lot of these songs, and instills energy and a genuine urgency that’s no longer apparent. This was a much different band. There’s a lot of challenging rhythms coming from Clary’s direction, and he also contributes a fair amount of backing vocals throughout these 10 songs.
I’m not trying to say this is anything groundbreaking, and a lot of the recordings are a bit dusty, but at the same time they show the band in a much more genuine and talented light than they appear in now. “Time Will Tell” shows off some great guitar work from Clary, and the early integration of what’s now their staple, Sean Mackin’s violin work. There’s a real energy and vigor to it, and it’s still used too sparsely to be considered anything special, but when it’s included, it has the ability to add that extra something to a song that would have otherwise been pretty generic. “Kids” is probably the best track on the album, with some great starts and stops, and extremely fluid guitar and drum interplay between Clary and their drummer. That interplay is just not something found in any of Yellowcard’s later recordings, because the focus is much too formulaic to give any individual members, save the occasional violin spot, a chance to show their talents.
Navigating through a few rough patches, the band really seemed to be a solid punk rock outfit 6 long years ago. Lineup shifts and dreams of grandeur have taken their attention away from playing with bands like In My Eyes and Kid Dynamite to catering to the TRL crown when there’s no new Good Charlotte video in rotation.
Also of note is the booklet accompanying the liner notes that the band has included. It’s a pretty thick booklet with a good amount of full color pictures of live performances and random pictures of the members. Also included here are the lyrics to “Time Will Tell,” but only “Time Will Tell.” No other lyrics are anywhere to be found, so obviously the band found some importance in their words on that particular track; “See what the cause has left us, there’s no strength to minimize, they try so hard to change us but we don’t see out conscious eyes.” Words like that seem far more profound than any recollections of “Ocean Avenue.”
For you Yellowcard fans, I know a few are still hiding in the corner, you’d do well to pick this up and see where the band has come from. The rest of you very well may enjoy this as well; it’s a nice jolt of punk rock with some youthful enthusiasm to boot.