For Fans Of
Pop-punk is a very fun, but very childish genre by default. Perhaps that’s why bands falter when they mature and grow up and try to push past their blissful youth (and initial sound), which gave birth to their success (‘Neighbourhoods’ by Blink-182 is perhaps the best example of that). To some degree, the genre has now become like the latter Adam Sandler and Jim Carey movies: just absolutely fuck-awful (seriously, fuck Pixels and all that were involved in it, even you Dinklage). And that’s because the importance on youthful energy and on growing up really is paramount, and that’s probably why Neck Deep are one of the scene’s biggest upcoming bands right now. For The Wonder Years, whom went from easy-core/Moog synth/Motion City Soundtrack flogs, to dorky awkward up and comers, to just slightly awkward scene heroes in just a couple years; are now even deeper into that mature stage of their career. Yet they haven’t faltered like some peers have.
Yes, The Wonder Years come from pop-punk, they tour with predominantly pop-punk bands, and they definitely incorporate strong elements of pop-punk in their music. Yet there’s always been something very different about them, and it’s in their fifth record, ‘No Closer To Heaven’, that this becomes apparent. The emphasis on the song’s melodies and choruses and the honest-to-God lyrics are still the focal point of the band’s music. With the ever-personal subject matter and with the focus on a deceased friend with some of these songs (recent single ‘Cigarettes & Saints’ for instance) means many a lump will jump up into your throat. This is by far the most cathartic and the most sombre of the band’s records.
The reality that singer Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell refuses to ignore and shut out in his lyricism is brought even closer under the microscope that is the band’s music, and that’s what makes this album one of their best efforts, if not their best to date. The thoughts and musings on death, funerals, suicides, and loss is heavy in content, obviously, but instead of merely jumping into bed with tragedy like La Dispute do, this band walks out the door and into the sunshine. That rather weird metaphor is basically us saying that The Wonder Years really do see the silver-lining and they really do embrace the idea of pushing on even when shit’s at its most grim. The constant soul/gospel/hymn undertone of the album only furthers the melancholic nature of the album and its themes, and, in some cases, you can really hear the fragile nature of Campbell’s vocals.
Now, the lyrics only occasionally mention the names of friends and family or actual locations that listeners have no real frame of reference for, plus the band seemed to have shed their mascot, Hank The Pigeon (seemingly revealed in the chorus of ‘A Song For Ernest Hemingway‘). Once more, the songs are driven perfectly along by Mike Kennedy’s drumming, and the guy doesn’t miss a beat (ha bloody ha), nor does the rest of the band for that matter. Production-wise, the full-length isn’t glowing in polish like their peers (New Found Glory, Man Overboard etc.), but the band’s soulful instrumentation and just sheer honesty makes up for that. One song has to have a special mention though and that’s ‘Stained Glass Ceiling‘. This track is a solemn yet soaring song about equality and acceptance, and it’s made all the more potent by letlive.’s Jason Butler lending his signature voice to the band’s sound, and it’s a real standout of an album that is filled to the brim with new classics (minus all the Iggy).
In this scene of never ending wave of pop-punk/alternative/punk rock bands, The Wonder Years stand taller than the rest for a few reasons. Because they aren’t just catchy lyrics and trendy merch, because they aren’t just another one-trick pony with same-same choruses and melodies, because they aren’t just content with second best or second rate, because they’re cliched, but not in the way that a band like The Story So Far is. With an album like ‘No Closer To Heaven’, you’re looking at one of the better pop-punk bands to ever grace the genre.
1. Brothers &
3. A Song For Patsy Cline
4. I Don’t Like Who I Was Then
5. Cigarettes & Saints
6. The Bluest Things On Earth
7. A Song For Ernest Hemingway
8. Thanks For The Ride
9. Stained Glass Ceilings
10. I Wanted So Badly To Be Brave
11. You In January
12. Palm Reader
13. No Closer To Heaven