There are very few things on this planet that get progressively better with age. I'm not about to throw some overdone wine analogy at you, but this is exactly how I would describe the six-piece pop punk band The Wonder Years. The Wonder Years have returned with their much anticipated fourth release, The Greatest Generation, and saying that The Wonder Years "have done it again" with this album would be a drastic understatement. Rather, they have reinvented and redefined an entirely new sound for themselves that I foresee many bands attempting to replicate in the near future. This is normally the turning point in many band's careers where things begin going downhill and the quality of albums decline, but not for The Wonder Years. With every new album, they just improve from the previous release. The Wonder Years can definitely be considered as one of the greatest bands to emerge in the past decade, and with good reason.
On their past albums, The Wonder Years have been known for making a dramatic and impressionable entrance ("My Last Semester" and "Came Out Swinging") and not a thing has changed. With the first track on this album titled "There, There," there is a soft intro that subtly builds into some passionate and heart-wrenching vocals. The vocalist, Dan "Soupy" Campbell, has always had a distinct sound to his voice and has built up his vocals with every album. On The Greatest Generation, Soupy is at the top of his game. Every word he sings carries a melody that can make even grown men tear up. Another noticeable difference on The Greatest Generation is the lyrics. Gone are the lyrics about hometowns and heartbreak. The lyrics Soupy now produces are about the pains of growing up, being alone, or not making a difference, and they are the most down to earth words that have ever been written by this band, such as in "The Devil in My Bloodstream" where Soupy sings "Depression grabbed his throat and choked the life out of him slowly/I've got the same blood coursing through my veins/It'll come for me eventually." Putting each track together, the entire album feels like work of breathtaking poetry.
After a few listens of The Greatest Generation, I was shocked at how much variety there is throughout the album. Some songs sound a lot more punk than anything that The Wonder Years have done before ("The Bastards, the Vultures, the Wolves"), some are much slower ("The Devil in My Bloodstream"), others sound like classic alternative music ("Teenage Parents"), and of course, there is the obligatory acoustic song ("Madelyn"). I'm impressed at how much The Wonder Years can mix things up without everything sounding too cluttered, and how they can avoid sticking to one sound and playing it to death. Each band member plays their part perfectly and all have significantly improved over the years. The crunchy guitar sounds appropriate with the rougher tone that The Greatest Generation has. Each drum hit matches with the rest of the music, and vice versa. Another merit that The Greatest Generation proves to have is the vocals done by people other than Soupy. Like the previous releases, bassist Josh Martin returns with his gruff, yelling backup vocals. Martin's vocals go hand-in-hand with Soupy's vocals to make up The Wonder Years' signature sound. Other vocals that were done on this album were on "The Devil in My Bloodstream" and done by Laura Stevenson.
I could write a track-by-track review, but that would take me hours and thousands of words, so I'll just say that you don't know what you're missing out on until you listen to the album in its entirety. With that being said, the final track, "I Just Want to Sell Out My Funeral," is easily one of the best closing songs for any album I have heard. It is the longest and most emotionally packed song that The Wonder Years has ever written. The main feature of this track is that it features what seems to be a medley of all of the best parts from each song on the album combined into a song. Somehow, this is done without having an avant-garde feel and everything in it flows very smoothly. Older fans of the band may have noticed references to older material in the album, or sometimes even references to other songs. These references are yet another thing that The Wonder Years does to stay original, and you could say that they are an "easter egg" for some of the older fans.
In truth, there is not a single bad thing I can say about this album. Every single aspect of The Greatest Generation blows me away and continues to do so on every listen. I get chills dozens of times throughout the album. All I can say is that you need to give this album a listen, regardless of what music you are a fan of. Rich with poetic lyrics, angelic vocals and biting guitars, there is something here for everyone. Hopeless Records now has the entire album streaming on YouTube, so check out the link below to listen. Don't sleep on such a phenomenal album.
Links: Facebook - Album Stream