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The Wonder Years Rock the Suburbs with New Album “The Greatest Generation”

Posted by Mike Moynahan on 06/07 at 04:10 PM

Grade: A

Pop-punk is a genre that is hit or miss for many people. In my experience, there are those who are die hard fans and those that just prefer to listen to something else.  Lansdale, Pennsylvania’s The Wonder Years bridge the gap for me between the alternative and indie rock I usually prefer to the pop punk sound with their soaring melodies and their sincere, meaningful lyrics sung with compassion by the group’s front-man, Dan “Soupy” Campbell.  They describe themselves as “Realist Pop Punk” and after a string of great albums, The Greatest Generation seals the deal.  These guys just seem to get it.

I’ve been following The Wonder Years’ progression as a group since the time some of the bands’ members played small shows in my area when they were known as The Premier.  From there it’s been quite the journey as they released the upbeat but comical Get Stoked On It in 2007, the more serious The Upsides in 2010, and 2011’s highly praised Suburbia: I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing, documenting the group’s love/hate relationship with the suburbs of Philadelphia.  Throughout the past few years, they’ve accumulated a great deal of passionate fans eager to scream along with Soupy during intimate concerts.

Although their past albums have been very enjoyable, The Greatest Generation is without a doubt the band’s best release to date.  It starts off with “There, There,” a song apologizing for not being up to the standards expected of you, with Campbell repeating throughout the track, “I’m sorry I don’t laugh at the right times.” He continues with passionate lines like “I’ve got my heart strung up on clothing line through tenement windows in mid-July,” and “Is this what it feels like with my wings clipped?  I’m awkward and nervous.”

The standout second track and first single off the album is “Passing Through A Screen Door.” The song is an examination of life on the road and whether or not it’s worth it.  It’s a powerful piece and sets the pace for what the listener can expect on the rest of the album.  The lines Campbell sings immerses the listener in the emotions attached to them.  He sings, “I’m conjuring ghosts on a forty hour ride home, and they keep asking me what I’m doing with my life.  While my cousins go to bed with their wives I’m feeling like I’ve fallen behind.”  The worry that the narrator is missing out on important milestones in life is apparent.  The song’s strongest line is when Campbell sings, with a sort of desperation in his voice, “Jesus Christ. I’m twenty-six.  All the people I’ve graduated with all have kids, all have wives, all have people who care if they come home at night.”  The song is a fantastic way of portraying the realization that sometimes the rock star lifestyle can take a heavy toll on those who embark on it.

The album’s third track “We Could Die Like This” follows a bit of a different route for the group.  While their previous album’s title alone reflects on the frustrations of a life spent in the suburbs, this track shows that home is important as Campbell admits,  “Operator, take me home.  I don’t know where else to go.  I wanna die in the suburbs.”  The track also shows the group’s growth in suburban Philadelphia, acknowledging the place that sculpted them as Campbell sings,  “these northeast winters make boys into men, staring out at snow-plowed mountains in the parking lots of churches.  The city just felt worn out, no strength to pick our hearts off the ground.  We watched the ‘92 Birds take the field without Jerome Brown.”

The album continues with lyrically powerful songs. The topics they they deal with are supported by surging guitar riffs and passionate snare hits.  “Dismantling Summer” asks the question, “if I’m in an airport and you’re in a hospital bed, well then what kind of man does that make me?” and confesses, “I’ve been acting like I’m strong but the truth is, I’ve been losing ground to a hospital too crowded, a summer winding down.  I hadn’t seen a heartbreak until now.”  “Teenage Parents” tells the story of a childhood where a family must stick together and power through as Campbell passionately sings, “all we had were hand-me-downs.  And all we had was good will and you always said it would get better. When you’re young and you’re poor, they hang on your failures.’  And you always said it would get better.”

The album’s closing track is “I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral.” The song is a seven and a half minute epic, incorporating lines from the previous twelve songs that came before it along with lines exclusive to just the final song.  Lines like “I just want to sell out my funeral; I just want to be enough for everyone.  I just want to sell out my funeral; Know that I fought until the lights were gone,” and “there’s no triumph waiting; there’s no sunset to ride off in. We all want to be great men and there’s nothing romantic about it.  I just want to know that I did all I could with what I was given.”  The song is truly a reflection of how much the group cares about what they’re doing. It’s an appropriate ending to an album both new and old fans can appreciate.  The Greatest Generation shows past failures coupled with dreams and aspirations of self-betterment in the future.  Its content is something everyone can relate to and it deserves to be heard.

You can purchase The Greatest Generation on iTunes.

Check out the lyric video for “Passing Through A Screen Door” below

{name} Author: Mike Moynahan
Bio: Mike Moynahan is a senior majoring in English and minoring in Media Studies. In addition to writing, he co-hosts the Indie 500 show every Wednesday at 7PM on The LION 90.7fm. He enjoys watching T.V. (especially Breaking Bad), digging deep into the bowels of Netflix for instant viewing when he’s bored, reading and napping in his free time. No artists will ever be greater than the Beatles or Elliott Smith but he commends the rest of the pack for trying their best. Some of his current favorites include The Gaslight Anthem, The Weakerthans, Death Cab for Cutie, The Front Bottoms, Titus Andronicus, Arcade Fire, Built to Spill, Manchester Orchestra, Kevin Devine, The Hold Steady, Los Campesinos!, Bon Iver, and Coldplay. Especially Coldplay.

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