punches air* *stage dives* *punches air once more*
Philadelphia emo six piece The Wonder Years have never been shy to perform open heart surgery on themselves to create albums. No Closer To Heaven is every bit prepared to undergo the scalpel following in the footsteps of the four albums released before it (2007’s Get Stoked On It!, 2010’s The Upsides, 2011’s Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing, 2013’s The Greatest Generation).
Some bands spend years trying to find that progression and perfection, however The Wonder Years have nailed that and keep banging out the goods their fans demand. No Closer To Heaven focuses on more gargantuan subjects, other than his usual angst, suburban lassitude and general necessitous. The band have kept those head bopping drumbeats that every pop-punk kid strives on and those sickening guitar riffs that transport you to the suburbs of Philly during autumn evenings. Lyrically the album is so cloak and dagger, at first listen you’d just think front man, Dan ‘Soupey’ Campbell, is shouting about the classic hatred for his home town and adult anxieties. However listening to the whole album closely you realise how dark it really is. Thanks For The Ride for example, a song thats catalyse was cored around a deceased friend and the question “what life would be like if she had lived?”. A “What if you’d woken up from the coma?” kind of scenario. The whole album is definitely Soupey’s most unrestricted album to date.
No Closer To Heaven kicks off with 1 minute 32 second song Brothers. An unearthly musical song, the only lyrics spoken are the repletion of “We’re no saviours if we can’t save our brothers”.
Brothers starts with a simple journey through The Wonder Years classic guitars and slow drums it picks up once the crying vocals come in. And like a lot of things in life. Stops abruptly.
Cardinals the second track on the LP, named after the iconic red bird, is not the most uplifting song on the album but is very deep and authentic. The truths of troubled America and broken promised are the main basis of the song.“Cardinal crashed into my window, think he might die. I’ll plan him a funeral, I’ll read his last rites. Cause I know what he saw in that reflection light. On the glass was a better life” speaks of the idea of the bird not knowing the difference between reflection and reality. So basically he’s saying that at some point in your life you will have the same fate as that bird. You crash into what is a very literal glass window.
A Song for Patsy Cline & A Song for Ernest Hemingway paired songs about hitting that writers block and convincing yourself you’re doing terribly at something you’re supposed to be good at. Dan Campbell is quite simply singing about the struggles he had writing the album and comparing it to the constant difficulties Patsy and Earnest faced during the last few years of their lives as musicians. Musically the song is a progressive pop-punk. Starting with signature slow eerie guitars and eventually moving to a stronger harder hitting melody. The basic definition of pop-punk is melancholy lyrics over merrier melodies. Every song that The Wonder Years bang out hit this right on the mark. A Song for Earnest Hemingway almost sounds like a gospel choir and yet again, quickly hits back into those violent drums and mellifluous vocals.
The closing track No Closer To Heaven is the only acoustic track on the album, laced with calming acoustics that make you want to sink into a mattress. The song references previous songs on the album, this is a tendency of The Wonder Years Albums. Mentioning the death of birds once again and Ernest Hemingway and their matching forehead scars . The guilt riddled song may be soul destroying to listening but is oddly calming. The humble acoustic guitar sits gently on the ear. Any fan of The Wonder Years would agree that no matter what, you would catch a serious case of the feels listening to this album alone.
Lyrically the Philly hexad have matured, even if it is in the “death is inevitable and everyone hates me” kind of way. The stories behind this set of songs are hard hitting, leak authenticity and show the true colours of Dan “Soupey” Campbell. Any pop-punk fan would end up spiralling into an existential crisis after submerging themselves in the lyrical realness of No Closer To Heaven. The album screams pop-punk and defies the genre with surgeon precision. They have grown along side their listeners and have a devoted spot on top of the alternative music scene.
*punches air* *cries into pizza*
Words by Evie Caygill