Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Album Review: The Wonder Years - The Greatest Generation

Album Rating: A
Within a short four years, six-piece pop punk act The Wonder Years have worked their way up from the bowels of dirty basement shows to the festival stage of The Vans Warped Tour. Their last record, Suburbia I've Given You All And Now I'm Nothing was met with widespread acclaim amongst fans of the pop punk — some even say it set a new bar for the genre. With The Greatest Generation, the band has released not just a magnificent follow up to Suburbia, but completely blown it out of the water. It is with this record that The Wonder Years enters the big leagues and perfect their sound. The Greatest Generation is the best music the band has done, and very well may be the best the genre has seen in years.

The band has completely pulled out all the stops on The Greatest Generation, and nothing is more exemplary of that than in opener "There, There." Singer Dan "Soupy" Campbell's vocals croon over a dissonant backdrop overlaid with a simple guitar riff before dropping into a mid-tempo beat. The song kicks in even further as Campbell belts, "I'm sorry I don't laugh at the right times!" The line is crucial and poignant, a cornerstone to base the album off of akin to "I'm not sad anymore" from The Upsides. As the song rolls to an end, surprising chugs lead the way into the abrupt but effective close. The song is a stunning example of maturity and growth for the band, lending itself to being one of the band's best songs to date.

The first single, "Passing Through A Screen Door," calls back to Suburbia. Featuring a catchy chorus and a familiar sound, the song actually feels out of place when compared to other songs on the record. "Passing Through A Screen Door" is definitely the safest song of the bunch, featuring a groovy rhythm and Soupy's trademark vocals. It'a great single to introduce some of the themes and maturity of The Greatest Generation, almost acting as a bridge between Suburbia's sound and the new record's evolutionary touches.

"We Could Die Like This" is a well-executed anthem. Mike Kennedy's relentless drumming alongside the ripping guitars drive into one of the catchiest choruses on the album as Soupy pleads "Operator take me home/I don't know where else to go/I want to die in the suburbs." The next song, "Dismantling Summer," evokes a feeling of Weezer rooted in pop punk, but with flaring vulnerability. The honest lyrics show the sadness and darkness of loss that we all feel at some point. "If I'm in an airport/ and you're in a hospital bed/ well then, what kind of man does that make me?" will hit all too close to home for those who have lost a loved one, but in a brutally cathartic way.

The band picks up the pace with the thrashy "The Bastards The Vultures, The Wolves." One of the strongest songs on the album, it's sure to bring out the moshing and circle pits at Warped Tour this summer. "I came here looking for a fight" is one of the most memorable lines from the album, and it will definitely get stuck in your head. As the song closes and rings out, "The Devil In My Bloodstream" creeps in. The stark contrast of somber piano with the punk "The Bastards, The Vultures, The Wolves" is a critical turning point for the album. Soupy's vocals have never been better are feature an articulate boost in harmony from guest vocalist Laura Stevenson. The song picks back up, though it stays in the somber all the way through to the end. "The Devil In My Bloodstream" may be the best song the band has ever written.

"Teenage Parents" kickstarts the relentless assault of the next few tracks. The snapping snares and dance-like guitar riff in the chorus is a high light, although Soupy's falsetto approach to the line "All we had were hand me downs" towards the end of the track could turn some heads. "Chaser" starts off with a driving guitar riff, settles into a technical verse before soaring into a pre-chorus and fantastic head-bobbing chorus. Yet, "An American Religion (FSF)" is a true staple. The chugging and infectious guitar lick riff is the band's fastest track on the record. "There are paper bullets shooting my feet/does that make you happy?" is a top-tier moment for the album, followed by Josh Martin's delivery of the second half of the second verse. The brevity of "An American Religion" will have fans playing the track over and over.

"A Raindance in Traffic" enters with some emotional guitar work, which may have pop punk fans noticing a similarity with The Story So Far's "Four Years" although the former is light years better. The gang vocals underlying the chorus will be a crowd pleaser, and the final minute is nothing short but epic. Without looking at a tracklist, fans might be convinced it was the album closer.

The album takes another turn with the acoustic "Madelyn." The production is raw and direct when compared to the rest of the album. Though it disrupts the flow and may be the weakest song on the record, it's hard to deny its catchiness. When compared to older tracks however, such as "Hey Thanks" from The Upsides, "Madelyn" is a quaint sleeper track that fans will more than likely hum along to.

"Cul-de-sac" is another track where Soupy's vocals shine. The song's composition is top-notch, as drums whip up behind strong bass lines and roaring guitar chords. The sadness perseveres as Soupy proclaims "I thought my kids would call you uncle." One of the most disheartening tracks on the album, it's a perfect segue into the band's final track. "I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral" is an ambitious seven-and-a-half minute journey that gradually picks up steam. It's the culmination of a year's worth of songwriting and the pinnacle of the album, and maybe even the band's career. The song is epic, but when the album is listened to all the way through, the song takes on an even greater power. "Funeral" will bring out all of the emotions: anger, sadness, regret. You may even shed some tears. This is the definitive moment of the band's career.

With all of the expectations fans held for The Greatest Generation, the Wonder Years certainly do not disappoint. The record is a testament to the band's hard work and perseverance over the past few years and will sure to catapult their fame into another league. After listening to The Greatest Generation, it's easy to see why the band has built up so much hype. They're more than just another pop punk band: they're real people, with real flaws, real dreams and real struggles. While the band is walking up the stairs into the scene's mainstream, please take note: The Greatest Generation is where The Wonder Years went from a pop punk band to the pop punk band of our generation.

Album Stream


1. There, There
2. Passing Through A Screen Door
3. We Could Die Like This
4. Dismantling Summer
5. The Bastards, The Vultures, The Wolves
6. The Devil in My Bloodstream
7. Teenage Parents
8. Chaser
9. An American Religion (FSF)
10. A Raindance In Traffic
11. Madelyn
12. Cul-de-sacs
13. I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral

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