2013 was a fantastic year for pop punk releases, with the likes of The Story So Far and Man Overboard raising the bar for up and coming bands of the genre. However one band has really led the way with the pop punk revival in recent years; and that band is The Wonder Years. This 6 man band from Philadelphia have released their fourth album, The Greatest Generation, with Hopeless Records and after their last two albums, expectations were high. The Greatest Generation completes a cycle that front man Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell called “a trilogy about growing up”.
Opening with ‘There, There’, this song set the scene for what was about to be an emotional rollercoaster of rock with brutally honest lyrics. The first single ‘Passing through a Screen Door’, is one of the album’s highlights; with the lyrics addressing Campbell’s ongoing battle with depression such as “it scares me sometimes, the emptiness I see in my eyes” and “I don’t want my children growing up to be anything like me”. This song really ties together the last two releases with the call of “I was really hoping you would stay” which links with ‘This Party Sucks’ from their 2010 release, ‘The Upsides’, and ‘Came Out Swinging’ from their 2011 release ‘Suburbia: I’ve Given You All and Now I am Nothing’.
The next highlight, ‘Dismantling Summer’, follows a similar route as ‘Passing Through a Screen Door’, however these lyrics are about Campbell’s struggle to go on tour when a member of his family was taken into hospital last year. Again the candid lyrics, which at times feel like you are hearing a diary of Campbell and the rest of the band’s life since the last record. It is this honesty which gives The Wonder Years such a dedicated fan base and following. Following this track is one of the best songs the band have ever written, ‘The B*stards, The Vultures, The Wolves’. This song is a perfect blend of punk rock, emotion and catchy choruses – if you only listen to one song by this band, then this is the song for you. It sums up The Wonder Years perfectly and again recalls elements of previous releases that die hard fans will pick up on and enjoy all the more for it. This fast paced song is followed by the first ballad of the album, ‘The Devil in My Bloodstream’, and is embodied by raw emotion while Campbell talks about his Grandfather’s battle with depression and how it crippled and killed him, while Campbell fears he will end up like that too. While the majority of the song is slow paced with a piano playing, the speed and guitars pick up later which really add a punch to the song. ‘We Could Die Like This’, ‘Teenage Parents’, ‘Chaser’ and ‘An American Religion’ are all good songs that fans of The Wonder Years, or just pop punk in general will enjoy, however these aren’t up to the very high standard the rest of the album sets.
The penultimate song on the album, ‘Madelyn’, has throwbacks to ‘Hey Thanks’ from previous album The Upsides. The song feels like a letter to a friend who has been struggling with life and is a beautiful piece of music with lyrics that you can take comfort in when you are feeling a bit down. The final song ‘I Just Want to Sell Out My Funeral’ is an epic; at 7 minutes and 35 seconds it is the longest song The Wonder Years have ever released and it completes the album perfectly. These closing tracks on albums by The Wonder Years are always incredible and this may just be the best one yet. Every part of this song fits perfectly and none feels like filler. While the closing notes of ‘I Just Want to Sell Out My Funeral’ ring in your ears, you feel like you have been on an emotional rollercoaster of the last few years of the bands’ life. This album is one of the best pop punk albums of all time, it can compete with the likes of Blink 182’s ‘Enema of the State’ and Fall Out Boy’s ‘From Under Cork Tree’, and is one of the best releases of 2013.
By Sam Taylor