The Wonder Years - Suburbia I've Given You All And Now I'm Nothing
Record Label: Hopeless/No Sleep
Release Date: June 14, 2011
The Wonder Years are a band in pretty unlikely circumstances, given the state of the music industry. Coming off the news of their latest album, Suburbia I've Given You All And Now I’m Nothing, selling enough copies to break the Billboard top 100 charts, it really makes me think: When was the last time a band in their position achieved this kind of success? It’s not that they don’t deserve it; quite the opposite, in fact. It’s just that (and I believe I speak for a lot of TWY fans out there), this is the music I would write if I were in a band. It’s so honest and free of everything that I hate. After just one full listen, it’s obvious that every member of this group gave everything they had to this record.
I didn’t even enjoy the earliest entries in this band’s discography. Like a lot of fans, it was their previous work, The Upsides that sold me on Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell and the boys. It’s no secret the impact that album has had on me in just over a year (94% score is the highest I’ve ever given on this site). How can you even follow an album that launches your career to previously dreamt about levels? The answer, it seems to me, is to not outsmart your common sense. Suburbia just feels natural. It’s a clear progression from a landmark album, and retains everything this community has come to love about The Wonder Years.
Opener “Came Out Swinging” is a clear message to listeners, letting us know that this is still the same band that wrote about getting over shit from the past, and reminds us that while it doesn’t always happen quickly, it’s a deliberate process. The song builds from an explosive opening to a declaration that both sums up the previous record and sets the stage for what’s to come. If there were ever an opening track to match “My Last Semester” for immersion and bar-setting, this is it.
The next three tracks display the array of talents the guys have picked up over their career. While “Woke Up Older” is one of the catchiest of the record, early sneak peak track “Local Man Ruins Everything” packs emotion and intensity. The first of a three-part effort containing the albums full title, “Suburbia” brings in the personality of Campbell’s writing, and nostalgia about the south Philadelphia life the band has grown to embrace.
A nod to the album’s artwork, “My Life As A Pigeon” is a tempo-morphing shot at critics and non-believers of the bands choices and accomplishments. If there were a forgettable track on the record for me, this would probably be it, but only because the rest of the material is that damn good. “Summers In PA” is the most explicitly upbeat song, as Campbell forgets all previous troubles to recount some crazy summer nights with his friends. The storytelling in songs like these are what have really sold me on this band, and this aspect is at its finest here.
Controversy isn’t something I would normally associate with bands I consider talented, but “I Won’t Say The Lords Prayer” tiptoes the line with me. It seems to be a progression from “Dynamite Shovel”, and its strong anti-Christian message is surprising, but not out of place in the context of the album. However misguided I may find the message, no critic could argue the quality of a song this well written. Both instrumentally and lyrically, it’s impressive the band is able to craft such a departure seamlessly into their work.
There’s nothing better than an album that builds momentum in its midsection and finishes stronger than it began (which, coincidentally, could be used as a way to describe the bands career to date). From my personal favorite track on the album, “Coffee Eyes” straight through to the epic finale of “And Now I’m Nothing”, the band is totally on top of its game. The acoustic departure of “I’ve Given You All” is a nice change, and another one of those fantastic story telling moments the band has come to master –there’s so much room for a listener’s imagination in tracks like these. I can just picture those south Philly streets, and I even feel like I have a connection with it after all the anecdotes and personal notes hidden throughout these last six songs. Suburbia plays as a novel reads, leaving a mark on listeners that they won’t soon forget.
The standout feature of this record is the level of completeness. Each track has been crafted to work together and add a relevant piece to the feel of the end product. In fact, there’s so much to delve into in regards to the writing that it would be easy to never even mention the instrumentation. Thankfully, the rest of the band all play their roles to perfection and contribute to a point where I don’t think any of them could ever be replaced without changing the entire feel of the record. The guitar leads are more creative in their ability to scale things down on one track, while assaulting our ears on the next. The drums are as driving and complex as ever. And as to be expected, the production is top notch.
I believe in a certain fairytale-esque principal; if you write music that is truly unique, enjoyable and honest, the right people are going to find it, and you’re going to be successful. Sure, a lot of bands who haven’t even enjoyed half of the modest success The Wonder Years have are probably offended by that statement, but its albums like this that enforce my belief. Just check the charts. Hard work, passion and a true appreciation for your craft can still sell records. People still notice, and we’re willing to pay for something this good. There aren’t any gimmicks here. There’s no formula, no trends, and no throwaway tracks. This is just straight up quality music. Whether you like the genre or not, whether you’re sick of people on the internet raving about this band, this album is going to be one of those that everyone will hear about, and hopefully enjoy as much as me.
been trying so hard to get into this album. i like it and it is a grower, but after some 20 listens there are still a couple of songs i don't remember the rhythm or any words to... i feel like i'm missing so much.
great review, i agree on how superbly this record was crafted. i'll definely check 'the upsides' some time soon.