Written by Amy Geiss
If you don’t know The Wonder Years as a band and thought this review was a dated piece on the late ’80s television show, don’t’ feel bad. The Wonder Years are a homegrown Philly band helping lead the pop-punk scene. Their newly released fifth LP, No Closer To Heaven, follows the success of their previous four albums which created and molded the fan base into who they are today.
Frontman Dan “Soupy” Campbell, along with Matt Brasch, Casey Cavaliere, Mike Kennedy, Josh Martin and Nick Steinborn bring an eye-opening authenticity to their music. Raw lyrics compose a real and approachable relationship with the band. Soupy is so often singing the way that people feel but can’t say. They are, dare I say, a voice for the voiceless.
The band released three songs before the album’s release: “Cardinals,” “Cigarettes & Saints” and “I Don’t Like Who I Was Then.” These trio of songs are definitely some of the strongest on the album. If you want to get punch in the stomach with emotion, then “Cigarettes & Saints” is your song. Soupy packs this song with despair and grief, conveying the pain of losing someone. “I’ll bury your memories in the garden; I’ll watch them grow with the flowers in the spring. I’ll keep you with me,” he belts.
“Cardinals,” the album opener, besides a minute and a half intro, is your typical TWY song. This is in no way a bad thing. As a fan, you look for famliarality and hope that they don’t lose “their sound” in the process of making new music. “Stained Glass Ceilings” was an instant favorite and includes letlive. singer Jason Aalon Butler. It starts out moving slowly but once the music hits, it’ll win you over.
The title track, “No Closer to Heaven,” fell a bit flat. It’s got a Jesse Lacey/Brand New sound but just lacked pizazz for me. Understandably, acoustic slow songs might lack this pizazz that I speak off, but it was missing a key piece to the puzzle. It had a sadness that wasn’t the usual TWY angsty emotion, it was just sad.
Unlike pop music on the radio today, the modern pop punkers rely heavily on lyrics when being attracted to a song. Of course, a well written song musically is important but if the listener cannot personally connect with the meaning behind it all, they might not fall in love with it. “I Want So Badly to Be Brave” didn’t win me over on the first listen. While replaying the album, it slowly began to grow on me while I was able to process the lyrics and make a bond.
The Wonder Years, I can honestly say, is a band that may surprise you. People think they know what they are getting into with this band, but after first listen, you are in a completely different mindset. TWY can captivate struggle and sorrow unlike anyone else I’ve ever listened to. No Closer To Heaven shows the band’s growth, while not taking a step too far away from who they are.