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The Wonder Years No Closer to Heaven

The Wonder Years - No Closer to Heaven
01. Brothers &
02. Cardinals
03. A Song For Patsy Cline
04. I Don’t Like Who I Was Then
05. Cigarettes & Saints
06. The Bluest Things On Earth
07. A Song For Ernest Hemingway
08. Thanks For The Ride
09. Stained Glass Ceilings
10. I Wanted So Badly To Be Brave
11. You In January
12. Palm Reader
13. No Closer To Heaven
Reviewed by: Luke Henderson   //   Published: 10/17/2015

Let's face it, pop punk isn't always widely regarded as a sub-genre worthy of much critical attention or analysis. It's a scene that is understood to be centered on light song writing, goofy inside jokes, and moderately superficial lyrical topics. While this reputation is far from undeserved, some of pop punk's most notable acts have stood out from the crowd by rebelling against these very motifs. The Wonder Years, more than most, have always produced music with more depth, urgency, and authenticity than your average pop punk band, and have arguably done more to help legitimize the genre than many of their counterparts.

Starting with their sophomore LP The Upsides, The Wonder Years have honed their ability to deliver concise and emotive punk songs that are written with enough complexity and self-awareness that they could never be simply dismissed as the musical indulgences of a bratty teen, morose after a breakup. On albums like Suburbia I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing and The Greatest Generation, there were still plenty of tracks about heartbreak, growing up, and lost loved ones, but The Wonder Years were able to craft songs that dealt with these topics using a certain amount of vocal earnestness and musical experimentation, helping the group avoid the usual trappings of the genre.

It seems that this formula is working so well for the band that they have decided to double down on it with their latest release, No Closer to Heaven. On this album there seems to be a concerted effort to make songs that are instantly recognizable as The Wonder Years, but with darker and more complex elements throughout. The first two songs, "Brothers &" and "Cardinals" immediately set the tone for the album. The intro begins with a choral chant of the phrase "We're no saviours if we can't save our brothers," which is repeated throughout the record at various points, and the following track delivers a slow, layered build-up to a chorus dripping with lament and regret. In fact, this song exemplifies one of the band's strongest abilities: writing sorrowful song with hooks that demand to be sung along to. This juxtaposition is particular helpful in keeping the songs meaningful enough to have a lasting impact, all without becoming so self-indulgent or depressed as to make them unenjoyable.

This nuanced song writing ability is at work on two of the album's early stand out tracks, "I Don't Like Who I was Then" and "Cigarettes & Saints." Each song's lyrical content deals with vulnerable subjects (honest personal reflection and the death of a friend, respectively), but both are expertly executed and beg for repeated listens. These songs also demonstrate vocalist Dan "Soupy" Campbell's ability to use honest, exposed lyrical content in the service of well-delivered verses and incredibly catchy hooks.

While this is undoubtedly still a pop punk album at its core, the band's growth and complexity seems to have resulted in a generally slower and more ethereal feel to the record. Generally speaking, this isn't a problematic change, but when directly comparing more upbeat and direct songs like "A Song for Ernest Hemingway" or "Thanks for the Ride" to slower, more involved tracks like "Stained Glass Ceiling," it does become apparent that sometimes it's more effective and impactful to strip down and speed up the delivery. Further to this point, "The Bluest Things on Earth" begins at a galloping pace, but ultimately gets bogged down with itself at various points, which hurts the song overall.

Despite these small missteps, the album regains its focus and finishes strongly. "I Wanted to be Brave" is an immediate album highlight, perfectly blending concise song writing, soaring choruses, and haunting lyrical content. Ending with "You in January," "Palm Reader," and "No Closer to Heaven" help to demonstrate that while The Wonder Years undoubtedly comes from the pop punk world, they are still comfortable pushing their musical boundaries, often delivering some of their most interesting material to date in the process.

Bottom Line: No Closer To Home is the next logical step in the evolution of The Wonder Years. It is a rich and evocative album that makes it accessible even to those who traditionally don't find the pop punk genre appealing.

anonymous   posted 11/6/2015 8:45:55 PM
"I guess you haven't listened to their first release "Get stoked on it" where the cool aid guy is making out with captain crunch on the cover and have songs like "Keystone state dudecore" or "youre about to get fruit punched homey"."

Right. A release which the band has basically publicly disavowed themselves from years ago.
anonymous   posted 10/26/2015 7:32:11 AM
By and large, without a doubt, beyond the shadow, among the living, one of the most pretentious and cliche bands that ever existed. Every image, idea, emotion or thought was programmed into them by actual artists who would hate the people that they are. They emulate goodness, but alas, they are posers and bad people.
thetowerofrome   posted 10/25/2015 9:57:43 PM
marching_band_rules posted 7 days ago

also lol at reviewing pop punk.
anonymous   posted 10/22/2015 10:15:49 AM
The dude who wrote this article held high praise for this band for always having more depth in their music since it's void of inside jokes and being goofy like other pop punk bands.....I guess you haven't listened to their first release "Get stoked on it" where the cool aid guy is making out with captain crunch on the cover and have songs like "Keystone state dudecore" or "youre about to get fruit punched homey".
anonymous   posted 10/20/2015 9:16:01 PM
Absolute lambgoat.net hopeless isn't going to buy advertising

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