The Wonder Years - The Greatest Generation
Record Label: Hopeless Records
Release Dates: May 14th, 2013
Everyone has a friend that they can say they’ve grown up with - a special individual that has gone through the girlfriends, dead pets, and fights with your parents at your side. I have friends like that, and I feel like The Wonder Years sit pretty high up there in that category.
Now The Greatest Generationis here, I am twenty and confused about every miniscule aspect in my life. I’m not kidding when I say that I’m glad to have The Wonder Years here with me. I’ve grown up with this band without even realizing it, and now the final piece to their trilogy about growing up is here. I was sixteen when The Upsides was released, and since then this band and their message has helped and shaped me significantly, and this record hit the target in every sense of the phrase.
Lyrically, Dan “Soupy” Campbell has never been so vulnerable. He’s had a history of exposing a part of his soul without ever coming across as insincere or cliché. Instead of writing songs about college, girls, or even moshercising, he is here writing about something that’s real. His anxiety and depression have always played roles in their music, with this record coming out more or less as a decision to finally drop his anchors and move on and to make something meaningful out of his life. While teenagers will still definitely latch on to this record with lines like “I just want to sell out my funeral,” or “I was kind of hoping you’d stay,” this is pop-punk for adults both in sound, spirit, and intellect.
The Greatest Generation kicks off with “There, There”, a slower-paced track that is very out of character for the band. It eventually explodes into a celebration of sounds and leads into the only three tracks on the record that bares much resemblance to any of the preceding albums. “Passing Through a Screendoor” is sure to be a crowd pleaser with its’ energy and lyrics, while “We Could Die Like This” is a Suburbia leftover (in spirit, not sound) with it’s love for Philly and the suburbs. The feverish “Dismantling Summer” highlights Soupy’s vocals with Nick Steinborn and Matt Brasch singing backup harmonies.
“The Bastards, The Vultures, The Wolves” is one of the fastest and angriest tracks that the band has ever put out, with Soupy shouting through clenched teeth like a bomb with a lit fuse. It leads into new territory for The Wonder Years. Maybe I’m alone on this one, but I never pictured the band doing piano ballad. They did it, though. It’s wonderful. “The Devil in My Bloodstream” features guest vocalist Laura Stevenson doing a duet with Dan, with her harmonies gorgeously accenting his voice. It erupts into a full-band endeavor that reflects the theme of The Greatest Generation as Soupy reflects on his grandfather fighting in wars while he has yet to do something that meaningful.
The four tracks that start off the second half of the album are vicious and loud, possibly being some of the fastest tracks that the band has put out to date. “Teenage Parents” and “A Raindance in Traffic” are definite standouts from the whole album both lyrically and musically. “Madelyn” is a raw acoustic track that nods to “Hey Thanks” from The Upsides. Hearing Soupy shout “I don’t think there’s a God, I don’t think there’s anyone coming to save us.” should send shivers up your spine with the amount of passion he invests in that line. “I Just Want to Sell Out My Funeral” has received quite a bit of hype, and it’s all deserved. The seven and a half minute pop-punk epic is split into two parts, the first of which is a song of its’ own, and the second half tying the whole record together with each huge chorus getting its’ own reprisal in the song that is like a curtain call. It’s a legendary way to end a fantastic album, and in all levity it might be the best song that the band has put out.
The group has always managed to put out music that is never stale and always ahead of the curve. They aren’t in the upper echelon, they ARE the upper echelon. The band has lyrically always been at the top, and the music on this album is unparalleled. The triple guitar assault combined with outstanding heavy basslines, thrashing drums, and Steinborn’s occasional keyboard lines sitting atop the mix are just perfect, and their work shows off. Nobody is keeping the score, but this is honestly the record to beat, people will talk about this for years to come.
Some people will never see the appeal of The Wonder Years, and that is okay. Those of us who’ve somehow let the band into our hearts will always be appreciative because it’s just inexplicable how much a friend this band has come to be. Anyone who has become enthralled with The Wonder Years understands that they worm their way into your bloodstream. From their name that they ripped off of an 80’s sitcom, to the ridiculous pigeon they call their mascot, The Wonder Years are not only a part of the Greatest Generation, they’re leading it.