Review: The Wonder Years – Sister Cities

The Wonder Years - Sister Cities

If you were to describe the course of The Wonder Years’ decade-plus career, you may find the word “growth” as the most fitting. The band’s breakthrough trilogy of albums (2010’s The Upsides, 2011’s Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing, and 2013’s The Greatest Generation) were all about growing up. Each release addressed various stages of getting older all while the band continually got better as musicians and songwriters. Which is why 2015’s No Closer To Heaven felt like such an aberration. Instead of taking the leaps that the prior three albums did, No Closer To Heaven sounded like a lateral move, an album unsure of which version of the band it wanted to be. It resulted in some half-baked, rushed ideas and were the pressure of “what’s next” might have gotten to vocalist Dan Campbell and his bandmates. That’s not to say that Heaven doesn’t feature some of the band’s best work ever (“Cigarettes and Saints”, “The Bluest Things on Earth”, and “Stained Glass Ceilings” are peak Wonder Years), but it was frustrating that the band didn’t fully dive in. Yet it’s that past frustration that makes the band’s incredible new album, Sister Cities, feel so rewarding and refreshing.

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Review: The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation

The Wonder Years - The Greatest Generation

I don’t know what draft I’m on of this review. I think probably my sixth. I really can’t remember. I’ve probably deleted 4,000 words over the past two weeks. Part of this is because for the past week I’ve had this terrible fever thing and half of what I wrote was rubbish. The other part is because no one could have expected this record, and if you claim you did expect it, then you’re a liar. 

I believe in The Wonder Years. I believe they are one of the most exceptional bands around right now. They showed us with The Upsides that they could connect to young adults on a fiercely intimate level — more impressively than many of their peers from the late-2000s pop-punk revival. They showed us with Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing that not only was their arrival not a fluke, but that they possessed a critically important trait — the ability to, as a group, gather themselves and write an album that both drew upon and grew away from their previous triumph, and improved upon it in every measurable way.

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Review: The Wonder Years – Suburbia, I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing

If you’ve ever seen The Wonder Years play a live set, you can probably agree with me when I say the Philadelphia-based sextet puts on quite an enjoyable performance. But as good as their live shows are, those only last one night.

Frontman Daniel “Soupy” Campbell, along with bassist Joshua Martin, guitarists Casey Cavaliere and Matthew Brasch, drummer Michael Kennedy and guitarist/keyboardist Nick Steinborn, are also well-known for giving their fans tons of attention, from hanging out before and after shows to posting on this website. But those interactions only last a little while.

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Review: The Wonder Years – The Upsides

The Wonder Years - The Upsides

Dan “Soupy” Campbell is not sad anymore. After years of struggling to keep his head above water, The Wonder Years’ frontman is looking for the upsides to life. The newly adopted mantra is also the namesake of the band’s sophomore effort, The Upsides.

The album ups the ante in every way possible. The songwriting is more dynamic, sans the out of place breakdowns and unnecessary keyboards. (Keyboardist Mikey Kelly left the band prior to the recording of the album.) In their place are more opportunities for the other instruments to shine. Mike Kennedy displays some impressive skin work with his upbeat drumming throughout the 40 minute duration. Matt Brasch and Casey Cavaliere’s guitar work is more refined and melodic, while bassist Josh Martin keeps the low-end thumping. Campbell’s vocals have also improved immensely. He offers more soaring choruses and crooning melodies.

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Review: The Wonder Years – Get Stoked On It!

The Wonder Years – Get Stoked On It!

Take a look around. What do you see? 

Half-eaten bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos? Check. 
Nunchucks hanging on wall (you know, just in case)? Check. 
Telescope facing hot co-eds. Triple check (they’re blondes!). 
A general air of debauchery and laziness? Check** 

Well then, you’re an idiot. Whoa, whoa, whoa, don’t take that as a put-down. You have not been forgotten this time. You can finally dive into the cesspool of discarded expectations and “you had to be there” stories with a sufficiently boisterous soundtrack. For The Wonder Years have created Get Stoked On It! And Ted saw all that he had influenced, and that it was very good. He tried to tell Bill, but Bill had fallen asleep in the phone booth and was transported back to feudal Japan. Moving on.

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