Pop punk grows up

The Wonder Years’ fifth album marks a turning point

By Kristi Hill
Staff Writer

Rating: 8 out of 10

Wonder_Years_No_Closer_To_HeavenThe Wonder Years, like many pop punk bands today, seemed to be producing more and more songs pertaining to the common musical topics of the suburban lifestyle and failed attempts at love. With their fifth studio album, “No Closer to Heaven,” critics could say they cover everything but. “We only feel satisfied if we write a record that is our best record yet,” lead singer Dan Campbell said to Spin.com.

Campbell, also known by fans as Soupy, revealed that it was a bit intimidating to follow this goal with the huge success of the band’s previous 2013 release, “The Greatest Generation.” The band released a few singles, including “Cardinals” and “Cigarettes & Saints,” from the latest album before its release and the songs were soon added to the many other hits by The Wonder Years. The official release of “No Closer to Heaven” was on Sept. 4.

Changing their focus on writing lyrics, the band also began to mature their sound. The band is no longer restraining itself to the classic pop punk sound. It is obvious in comparison to previous albums that the sound of their latest release is much more refined. The artists are beginning to utilize their instrumental skills more frequently in order to produce more sophisticated music.

Although it sounds like The Wonder Years are changing their sound drastically, they have somehow managed to retain some of their classic sound in this new blend. This is a respectable feat for a band to conquer, as many bands fail to retain their roots.

Soupy displayed an obvious phase of depression through writing this album. “Writer’s block and feeling as though you are failing at the one thing that you’re supposed to be good at,” said Soupy in his Spin.com interview.

This was due to the fact that he was experiencing his worst case of writer’s block yet and the slight intimidation of topping their most famous, previously released album. This especially hurt the singer due to his view that The Wonder Years’ albums should only get better with each release. He reached out to some fellow musicians from other known bands such as Fireworks, for guidance and support while writing.

Listeners can easily observe that this artist is a very emotional man from his previous albums and song lyrics. Campbell mentioned in his interview with Spin.com that he felt that his block was letting down everyone he cared about, specifically his fans. After a lot of deep thought and an abundance of support from fellow artists and fans, Campbell realized that he had found his inspiration for the album.

He then decided to expand the topics of his songs from modern suburban life to issues Americans are facing as a country. This was a major step for the band; it is as if they have matured in a sense. “No Closer to Heaven” covers extremely emotional issues such as death and drug abuse. Topics like these are relatable and provide listeners with a sort of support in going through similar times.

Campbell is known and loved for his strong emotions and how well he portrays them in his music and continues to showcase that skill with the new album. The band is beginning to master the art of combining their preserved signature sound, while introducing more in-depth and refined music style to their songs. This development is exciting for The Wonder Years’ fans and is providing more reasons to anticipate what is coming next from the band.

The Wonder Years are going on tour this fall with Motion City Soundtrack and You Blew It! The pop punk tour hits Michigan Oct. 23. Fans can find the new record “No Closer To Heaven” on iTunes and local record stores.