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Album Review: The Wonder Years – No Closer To Heaven

Pennsylvania’s Pop-Punk performers present their fifth full album No Closer To Heaven and attempt to push themselves while staying true to their sound.


Text Review:

Once you are defined as being Pop-Punk it can be hard not to be compared to the likes of Blink 182, Fall Out Boy or All Time Low.  It’s not a bad thing to be compared to successful bands in a sub-genre, but Pop-Punk now has a predetermined mold that makes it hard for other bands to fit in if they vary their style, even if their style has been pop punk for a decade.

So when a band like The Wonder Years who tries to vary their style and branch out in different directions while staying true to their sound, it can be hard to define for many listeners  if it’s the same band they’ve been listening to for years.  But this comes natural for fans of Pennsylvania’s sixpiece.

No Closer To Heaven, the band’s fifth full album, plans to do just that.  Expanding their sound in different ways while still resembling what they are known for.  In an interview with Fuse TV, Dan Campbell said: “We want to walk a line where every record we’re doing we’re taking one nice step forward but we’re not taking a giant leap…We just tried to push out in every direction…It’s meant to expand the understanding of what our band is.”

In a media market where repeating the same successful thing for years on end still brings in money, it’s extremely rare and refreshing to hear musicians who continue to strive for more.  So along with the ambition to create, The Wonder Years put everything in full drive for what Campbell described as: “their best work to date.”

Early this summer we were presented with the track lineup and the first single Cardinals with a unique video to introduce everyone to No Closer To Heaven.  This would be the band’s first new work after the critically acclaimed The Greatest Generation.

Cardinals has a great elevation and slow build throughout the first minute.  The use of two drums sets to make the percussion and rhythm loud and consistent is mastered perfectly here along with some great chord progression in the guitars.  It feels like a complete song and sounds like it has depth.

Compared to other songs on No Closer To Heaven, Cardinals feels the most systematic and obvious of what they were going for.  Through the rest of the track list there are many different emotions and styles in this album.  There is a brooding and soft sense in one song, only to be ramped back up with some screaming and symbol bashing.  There is variety.

It goes back to branching out pushing in every direction.  It feels like natural progression to expand as opposed to throwing everything in one direction and hoping it lands in the right target.  The Wonder years prove that when the roots of a tree grow in every direction it makes the tree that much stronger.

In the sense of Pop-Punk, this definitely has the feel of Pop-Punk grown up.  Rather, it definitely feels like it fits the same genre but not in the same way as young tweens are going to be downloading it as their ringtone.  The chorus and hearing the lyrics about running until your lungs give up make a huge exclamation in this song that make it feel like an anthem.

Whether it’s the deeper meaning tracks like Cigarettes and Saints or the smoother instrumental standouts like Stained Glass Ceilings and A Song For Patsy Cline, there is something to get from this album regardless of what mood you are in.  The tracks may have different content and feels, but they definitely complete a whole picture.

There are some bands you grow out of, and there are some bands that you grow old listening to.  Now, after a decade of music and five full albums, The Wonder Years proved they are the latter.  Overall, No Closer To Heaven continues the example they have set for the genre.  Even if there are a few moments where there is more going on than your ears and brain can handle at once, the music and lyrics from The Wonder Years will make everything worth it to many listeners.