No Closer to Heaven is a divine gift to pop-punk fans

admin

Jeff Neukom, Managing Editor

In today’s music world, it’s not often that an album comes along and legitimately blows your hair back. I’m here to tell you that The Wonder Years, a pop-punk band hailing from Lansdale, Pennsylvania, just released an album that is absolute dynamite, and it’s called No Closer to Heaven.

The ideal progression for a band is to get better on each tour, more well rounded and creative on each album. Many bands fall prey to what is called the “sophomore slump,” but the Wonder Years gracefully managed to avoid this with Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing, which was a wonderful album. They followed that up with The Greatest Generation, which many said was such a good effort that they’d never top it.

Well, I’m here to tell you that No Closer to Heaven does just that, and it seems that this wondrously introspective band is destined to keep getting better, no matter what fans and pundits say.

Lead by singer and songwriter Dan “Soupy” Campbell, the band has managed to transcend the limits of the pop-punk genre, which many critics malign as whiny and often immature. Make no mistake, The Wonder Years is a band that stands alone, far from the nasally and oft-immature lyrics of well-known bands like blink-182 and New Found Glory.

Pop-punk, a subgenre of punk rock, is known for its fast, often simple pace, heavily employing three-chord guitar progressions and charging drums. True to their roots, The Wonder Years often employ a blistering pace, though not quite reaching the breakneck speeds of old school punk bands of the 80s and 90s.

Something I’ve noticed in the music of this millennium is that swear words are often used as filler words, as empty insults or as hybrid adjective-noun-verbs. One example of this is the proverbial “f-bomb,” which is often used as all three in one line. Campbell, though, doesn’t swear to pass the time or fill a line, but rather his swears are strategically placed to emphasize his emotion – his anger, his sadness, even his happiness.

Campbell, whose strength has always been his ridiculously good lyrics, manages to outdo himself throughout the album, especially on the track “Cigarettes & Saints.” Simply put, this is one of the best songs I’ve heard this year, maybe ever. His vocals are spot-on, the song beginning as a slow, borderline tragic homage to his deceased friend and building into a roaring crescendo of anger and social critique.

Campbell’s nearly breaks as he delivers the verse, “You were heat lightning / You were a storm that never rolled in / You were the northern lights in a southern town, a caustic fleeting thing / I’ll bury your memories in the garden/ I’ll watch them grow with the flowers in the spring / I’ll keep you with me.”

Seriously, this verse puts some more esteemed creative writers to shame. Take notes, all aspiring writers – Dan Campbell is dangerous with a pen, and you would do well to take a look at his lyrics.

After letting his poignant arsenal of words sink in, Campbell switches gears, assuming a growl as he rips the “wolves in their suits and ties,” saying that his whole generation “got lost in the margin.”

Mere mortal artists would not be able to switch gears from talking about a heartbreaking tragedy to a vicious attack of society, but then again, the members of this Philly band may not be mortal. It’s hard to believe a group of mortals could continue to get better at such a shocking pace.

There is so much to this album that a review just cannot do it justice. Each song shows an unmatched, uninhibited talent and dedication. Powered by Campbell’s razor-sharp rhetoric and a supporting cast capable of handling any pace, any number of stops and starts, The Wonder Years have just dropped an album that I’ve already declared my favorite of the year. Hell, maybe my favorite of the last two years. Do yourself a favor and check out No Closer to Heaven.