By Dave Beech
August 12, 2013
Few things in this world evoke a sense of nostalgia stronger than that of music; it has the power to transport one to a time and place years past, to stir up an emotion or feeling with almost the same potency as initially felt when hearing a particular song or album for the first time. And though times, tastes and situations change, you can always rely on that song, that album or that band to bring forth old sentiments as if it were yesterday. One such album that has the ability to do such, is Yellowcard’s Ocean Avenue, and despite not having heard the record for a number of years, it still gives rise to the same emotions felt upon it’s release in 2003. Almost.
Many bands offer a tour to commemorate ten years since the release of an album and Yellowcard are no exception, but, not only are they embarking on a tour to celebrate the album’s anniversary, they’re also releasing a “re-imagining” of the album, with the original 13 tracks being rerecorded acoustically. Those of you familiar with the original release might find this a little bizarre, or even contrived, given the acoustic nature of several songs anyway, however no song has been left untouched and even those with a sparse acoustic backbone such as ‘Empty Apartment’ have been reworked for the reissue.
From the first seconds of album opener ‘Way Away’ I’m transported back to my first introduction to the band; a blistering live performance in support of Less Than Jake which still stands out as one of the strongest support sets I’ve ever witnessed. Surprisingly enough, many of the tracks included still harbour the same relentless energy as that of their electric counterparts and in some cases sound even better ten years down the line. This can almost certainly be attributed to the frenetic violin sections provided by Sean Mackin, and whilst these sections might have been viewed as gimmicky or as the band’s ‘unique selling point’ upon the original record’s release, it fuses together with the acoustic nature of the reissue brilliantly. Tracks such as ‘Breathing’ and ‘Believe’ benefit hugely from the change in aesthetic, and whilst the narrative of the latter might not have the same cultural resonance that once did (the song was a tribute to those who died saving others during 9/11) it still packs the same punch musically that it did upon it’s inception.
Unfortunately some of the more well-known tracks from Ocean Avenue hit home with rather less impact than they did. In particular titular track ‘Ocean Avenue’ seems to blend in to the background of the album as opposed to acting as the flagship song it once was. Not only this but the lyrics, once so sonorous, now seem simple and trite, however that can be put down to the fact that those who found catharsis in the record way back when aren’t the same 13 or 14 year olds they were; for anyone of a similar age however discovering Ocean Avenue for the first time will still allow them find solace in the lyrical candour.
It’s difficult for one not to review this album through rose-tinted glasses, whilst it wasn’t an album that defined my adolescence it’s certainly one that soundtracked a healthy portion of it. Sitting back and allowing the 13 songs featured to wash over me is like being taken back to a time in my life in which hormones ran riot and every failed romantic endeavour was a cataclysmic event. In retrospect, they were never anywhere near as bad as first made out, and much the same thing could be said about Ocean Avenue. It’s still a great album and the acoustic nature of the reissue only serves to heighten the sense of emotion upheld by it, particularly in tracks such as ‘Only One’ and ‘Miles Apart’. However that’s all it is, a good album. It will never break boundaries, but then again, since they’re taken out of their original context, what reissue does? What Ocean Avenue Acoustic sets out to do is celebrate the legacy of the original album and it does that wonderfully. Whilst several tracks do seem to fall flat on ears that are without teenage angst, the majority of the record is a welcome nostalgia trip that’s a joy to revisit, and what the album lacks in punch, it certainly makes up for in polish. Acoustic it is; rustic it isn’t. Let’s just hope that come November their live set can live up to the standard set by their support slot all those years ago.