In the inner core of our minds can be great struggle. A struggle which can force us to curl up into a ball. Those days spent uninspired and jaded, can make us disengage from society and our art. Breaking through to the next phase of hope is what we strive for, but ultimately life is a grind if you let it overwhelm our total sense. Providing a sound, a piece of art, a beat, a story, can aid us in securing salvation. Redemption may be far flung, it may be hard to fight for it, but it’s there as a red alert, as flashing light.
Music predominately connects us to the world. It can deliver momentum when it’s lacking, it can make our hearts beat rapidly, and it can make us dig deeper into the inner sanctum of our mindset. Exploring music is like studying a lover, one who lights up your life, one who keeps you from veering off into subordinate lanes.
The Wonder Years from Philadelphia are a band which catapulted onto the pop punk scene and cultivated their own, cathartic, sound. Led by Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell, the act pride themselves on the true connection between band and fan. Their music is never at a standpoint, it blooms and grows, it transports the listener into realms occupied by past ghosts and old flames, and it supplies the pop punker with musical arrangements and highly thought out plots.
Tinkering and drafting up new stories is what The Wonder Years are good at. Every song is an outline, a narrative burst, and they’re monumental at clicking us into their world. Emotion is clearly fundamental, every scenario conducted painstakingly.
The band’s third album, The Greatest Generation, is their tour de force. A pop punk masterclass, full of noteworthy tracks. Openness is key and the band don’t shy away from describing days spent uninspired and disenfranchised, days dredging through memories of years gone by. Their lyrical ingenuity is spellbinding at times too, with many of the songs like paper notes swirling in the air.
The Greatest Generation points at decay and emotion. Opening track, There, There, is a poignant affair. Subtleness carries the song through until Campbell raises his voice fearlessly. The guitar presence doesn’t overwhelm, but it’s there, complementing the sincere vocals. Lyrically it resonates ‘’You’re just trying to read but I’m always standing in your light. You’re just trying to sleep but I always wake you up to apologize’’ These words imprint and many of us can relate. A relationship hanging by a thread.
The masterclass continues as Passing Through A Screen Door generates a guitar driven chronicle. Campbell exerts his voice here, shifting it at an almighty pace. The story carries on, through a louder frequency, and the track is the pinnacle of this band’s creativity. The lyrics again hit hard ‘And all the kids’ names I’ve ever liked recited tragedy. Well, I don’t want my children growing up to be anything like me’’ The pessimism blackens, it flurries through the whole concept of this song, but as a story it compels.
If We Could Die Like This is a lyrical gem. Again, it takes a negative route. The upbeat guitar lines loosen the shackles for a moment, but the premise of this song circles around a man who wants to die in the suburbs. He doesn’t want to stray off to a glittering paradise.
Dismantling Summer weaves another emotional tale ‘’I’m pulling wings off insects, I’m peeling back my sunburnt skin, I’ll wait outside your bedroom I, I hope they let me in’’ Again, the protagonist is craving love’s burning flame. The character of this particular track, is ill ‘’I’ve been acting like I’m strong, But the truth is, I’ve been losing ground, To a hospital too crowded, A summer winding down, I hadn’t seen a heartbreak until now, I hadn’t felt a heartbreak until now’’
The Devil In My Bloodstream sets a marker. It is one of the most moving tracks in the band’s catalogue. The subtlety is infectious until the charm of the electric guitars add a rush of intensity. Campbell opens up and pulls down his defences. The intelligence showed here is limitless. The band enforce an intellectual balance ‘’It’s sixteen hours straight to home
from the heart of North Missouri, and so I searched through my great-grandpop’s memoirs, for the devil in my bloodstream, Depression grabbed his throat, And choked the life out of him slowly. I’ve got the same blood coursing through my veins, and it’ll come for me eventually’’
The Wonder Years a natural pop punk act. They’ve entertained us and brought us to the forefront of their dramatic dreams. Many may not understand or the songs may not transmit smoothly, but the band are such a radical outfit. The Greatest Generation is their seminal album, their pivotal output. Since the group’s inception in 2005, they have accumulated a fanatical fan-base who hang onto every word.
Mark McConville is a freelance music journalist who has written for many online publications as well as print.