A few years ago I would have never given this album a chance. The genre of punk/pop or post-punk or whatever the hell they call it these days stopped appealing to me right around the time Blink-182 and a billion other bands of their ilk started gaining popularity. That isn’t to say there aren’t bands out there that make that kind of music well, but I couldn’t get behind it (save for NoFX’s cover of “Aux Champs-Elysees,” which is masterful).
So, it was with mouth very much agape that I heard the first song off of Suburbia and found myself enjoying it quite a bit. Honestly, I picked up the record based on the name of the band. A lifelong fan of the television program, I thought “How bad can a record by a band called The Wonder Years possibly be?” As it turns out, not bad at all.
The thing that drew me in initially, and something missing from a lot of music spanning all genres, was the easily relateable lyrics. I’m far from being in the age demo that a lot of the songs are aimed at, but certain things are universal. Thoughts of loss, alieanation, longing-everybody has them at some point. So, when Dan Campbell sings:
I spent this year as a ghost, and I’m not sure what I’m looking for. I’m a voice on a phone that you rarely answer anymore.
it conjures up feelings that I think everyone can identify with.
The album is supposedly part of a “story” that’s been building through their two previous efforts. It is also loosely based on the poem America, by Allen Ginsbergh. Having not heard anything but this record, and never reading that poem (or at least having no recollection of reading it), I have no idea whether or not anything makes sense in the context of the whole.
Critiquing guitar work, or any instrument really, on an album like this is kind of pointless. So much of it has to do with the vocalist. Campbell carries a lot of the weight, obviously. He does get some help from Four Year Strong vocalists Dan O’Connor and Alan Day on the song “Summers in PA,” but for the most part the album is his alone. To his credit he does a remarkable job of delivering each song as close to perfect as is humanly possible.
Maybe I find the album to be so good is because in at least one area, we agree almost completely. The song that divides the album into two halves, “I Won’t Say The Lord’s Prayer,” is one of my favorite anti-religion songs ever.
The church over on Broad Street has got a neon sign that says Jesus Save Me
And I guess it’s so God can see from where he is in the cheap seats
I refuse to spend life on my knees
And I won’t let somebody else make my decisions for me
If we’re all just Christians or Lions
Then I think I’d rather be on the side with sharper teeth
I don’t need saving
As I’m writing this now, I realize that the album I’m portraying is actually quite a bit darker than the reality. There’s a good mix of heavier tunes and lighter fare. I tend to find the darker stuff more interesting, so that’s what I write about. If you’re a fan of the genre, you’ll definitely enjoy The Wonder Years newest. If, like me, you could give a shit about this style of music, you may find yourself grooving to a new beat. The album has been out for a couple weeks now, so go pick it up at a record store. If you must, it is also available on Amazon or iTunes.