The Wonder Years are on the cusp.
You can feel it at their shows. You can see it in their fans. You are practically kicked in the teeth by the inevitability online. I’ve seen a lot of bands at this spot in their careers take the ‘write a crisp mid-tempo album and go straight for the radio’ route, and I’ve seen even more buckle under the pressure and just flat-out write uninspired music.
The Wonder Years did neither.
Instead they wrote what I would call the best album of their careers.
See, I never really felt like I got this band before. I liked a bunch of their songs. I got why kids were relating with the lyrics. I understood the passion and the excitement. But there was never an it moment that cemented for me that this was anything special. It was good, it was fun, but with all the excitement I was seeing from other fans online … I’d always go back and re-listen to the albums hoping that I was missing something. That after this listen I would fully get why everyone was so excited about this band. I’d always leave those listens a tad disappointed — I know what it feels like to hear an album that completely shatters you and changes you … I could see so many other people getting that feeling … why wasn’t I?
Had I outgrown this style of music?
Was I too old for a loud pop-punk band to hit me this way anymore?
Maybe. But it also left me in a fairly unique position when the album finally came to my ears … I walked in with basically zero expectations. I grabbed a couple beers, tossed the album on, and sat back to just listen and see what the band had created. My first impressions went, a little something, like this:
- Oh man, I’m glad they didn’t go the mid-tempo radio rock route.
- Hmmm, this is better songwriting than before.
- Oh shit, that’s the song they want to premiere? I like the aggression and chorus. Totally in. That bridge is fucking good - I bet people complain about it.
- Woah, “Dismantling Summer” is a damn good song.
- This string of songs is really fantastic, kind of has a more ballsy Starting Line feel to the vocals and structure.
- The sailor in me likes that they’re not afraid to swear.
- Shit, this “Chaser” song might be the best one they’ve ever written.
- Is it beer number two that’s making me really like this album, or is something just clicking more?
- I’m gonna tweet some random shit at Thomas now to annoy him.
- How late is it? Can I turn this up or do I need to put on headphones? Meh - fuck it - these final four songs are as good as the album’s had to deliver so far.
- "A Raindance in Traffic" is the best song The Dangerous Summer and Valencia’s baby never wrote (that’s a compliment) … love the vocal inflection.
- First listen’s almost over: I feel like this is their best album and it’s not really even that close. More cohesive, stronger songwriting, better choruses, more variety in structure.
- Last song is epic. Umm, not going to ruin it for anyone.
I’m not sure if this is the album that’s going to make me a super-fan with pigeon stuffed animals snuggled in my bed and pictures of Soupy loosely taped to my ceiling — but I am positive that the band wrote one helluva good album. At least I know it’s one that I’ll be evangelizing and probably arguing with the fans that get mad the band got big online about for months to come. And it’s one everyone that’s a fan of the music I write about should at least check out — expectations removed, a couple beers in hand (for you legal readers) … and the volume turned up. As the album came to an end, I may not have had my entire world shattered, but I at least could answer a few of my questions:
I haven’t outgrown this style of music.
Loud pop-punk is in my blood.
And fuck if that’s not where you should feel the music: in your veins.
I’ll post some more thoughts over the next few weeks as I let the album settle and grow with me, a few walks around the block with headphones always seems to help my opinions form … as always feel free to hit me up on Twitter with any questions, and I’ll definitely be on the AP.net song premiere/chat thread next Monday to talk even more about the music.