There's a fine line with bands when it comes to being consistent and pushing the boundaries of your sound or just being consistent and sounding the same as you did last time with each new record. The Wonder Years fall into the first category; with every soul-searching, behemoth record they release, it only ever sounds like they're growing into, transforming, and moulding their sound into one of pop-punk's finest, and their latest 'No Closer to Heaven' is no different.
There is much to be said about the pop-punk genre by those who don't quite get it and therefore don't enjoy it - it's over-emotional, it's whiney, it's just for teenagers, 'Haven't you grown out of that phase yet?' I often hear when raving about a band of this ilk. Well, no to all three and no I most certainly haven't. I'm sure there are many out there who feel the same. I digress. The point of the above is to say that bands such as The Wonder Years are the reason this genre stays exciting and the reason why this music deserves a long, hard listen.
Dan Campbell has oft been forthcoming about his battle with depression - most prominent in their last record 'The Greatest Generation'. The title 'No Closer to Heaven' on their latest suggests that this battle is ongoing - as it often always will be for many.
The sound is large, and the familiar voice of Campbell both weaves and stampedes over the tracks with astounding grace at moments and screaming conviction in others. 'Cardinals' sets the tone like a firecracker, and the rest that follows is the best this band have been.
The idea of heaven, death, and the holy is toyed with throughout, but it's up to the listener to take their own meaning from the songs. 'Cigarettes & Saints' stands out significantly as a case in point. Let into what feels like an emotional and personal conversation, the track grows from what feels like a written letter set to music to an absolute beast. Music and vocals compliment each other completely - yearning, yet aggressive, grappling with faith, but hopeful all the same: 'I'm sure there ain't a heaven/but that don't mean I don't like to picture you there'. It's a testament to what the band do best.
Listen to this record on a pair of decent headphones and submerge yourself. Then press repeat.
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