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Album Review: The Wonder Years - 'The Upsides'

6 February 2010 | 9:51 pm | Staff Writer

Someone bring this band to Australia already.

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After releasing a string of successful EP’s and an album, Philadelphia’s The Wonder Years cemented themselves as one of the leading bands in the new generation of pop punk bands. With the amount of touring the band has done in their three years of existence, they have established themselves a quite respectable fan base and generated a great amount of hype surrounding the release of their second album, The Upsides.

The opening track “My Last Semester” starts off a bit slower before picking up the pace and setting the standard for the rest of the album. The following tracks “Logan Circle” and “Everything I Own Fits In This Backpack” follow up in a similar fashion with fast guitar parts and undeniably catchy melodies. The fast paced “Dynamite Shovel” has an unbelievable amount of energy to the song and lyrically the song is one of the most aggressive songs the band has written to date. “Hostels & Brothels” talks about being pushed to the edge touring in Leeds, before finally starting to find some hope. “Melrose Diner” is the pop punk staple song about being mad at your ex-girlfriend. One of the album standouts “This Party Sucks” covers the topic of being socially awkward and, produces the line soon to be on every pop punk kid’s Facebook page “I don’t need to pump my fist to look sweet.”

One of the more surprising tracks on the album is the slow-tempo, acoustic track “Hey Thanks”. The song features guest vocals from Rachel Minton of Zolof The Rock & Roll Destroyer and trombone played by Matt Belanger from We Are The Union. The dynamics between the two vocals are great, and the trombone gives the album a breath of fresh air. The final two tracks are two of the strongest tracks on the album. The chorus in “Washington Square Park” would have to be one of the catchiest parts of the album, if not one of the catchiest parts the band has ever written. The final song “All My Friends Are In Bar Bands” features an all-star line up of guest vocalists including Shane Henderson (Valencia), Dave Mackinder (Fireworks), Matty Arsenault (A Loss For Words), Jamie Rhoden (Title Fight) and Nik Bruzzese (Man Overboard). The group all contribute to the lines “I’m not sad anymore, I’m just tired of this place. If this year would just end, I think we’d all be okay”, which should be a fan favourite for sing-a-longs in the band’s live performances.

Lyrically the album is excellent. The band’s front man Dan “Soupy” Campbell manages to capture a wide variety of his emotions from being depressed and losing hope, to finding the upside to his life and not being sad anymore. The line “I’m not sad anymore” is a reoccurring theme throughout the album, which gives a feeling of joy and hope. The lyrics are more personal than ever, which shows Soupy has matured as a writer since the band’s previous releases.

One of the things that stood out for me on this album is that the band no longer has any keyboard parts in any of the songs. On the band’s previous releases I found the keyboard parts to be quite irritating, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that this record didn’t have any keyboard parts at all.

The production for this album is perfect. Producer and Zolof The Rock & Roll Destroyer guitarist Vince Ratti (Circa Survive, Valencia) has made the record sound great, which the band’s previous album was lacking a tiny bit.

The album contains enough variety to not make things stale and to keep the album interesting. There honestly isn’t a bad song on this album. I can’t see this album leaving my playlists anytime soon. If you’re a fan of bands like New Found Glory and Set Your Goals and haven’t heard this band yet, do yourself a favour and listen to “The Upsides”, it will be one of the best things you do all year.

"The Upsides" is setting the bar high for pop punk records to be released in the next few years. This record should put The Wonder Years further in front of the pack they are already leading.

1. My Last Semester

2. Logan Circle

3. Everything I Own Fits In This Backpack

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4. Dynamite Shovel

5. New Years With Carl Weathers

6. It’s Never Sunny In Philadelphia

7. Hostels & Brothels

8. Melrose Diner

9. This Party Sucks

10. Hey Thanks

11. Washington Square Park

12. All My Friends Are In Bar Bands