ARTIST: THE WONDER YEARS
TITLE: SISTER CITIES
LABEL: HOPELESS RECORDS
Pop Punk is in a bad place at the moment. Gone are the days of Dookie and Ixnay on the Hombre in favour of saccharinely sweet, synth-driven power-pop wearing a Billie Joe Armstrong mask. Then Pennsylvania’s The Wonder Years came. Exploding on to the scene over a decade ago with first record Get Stoked On It!, the six-piece have gone from strength to strength, releasing one of the closest things we got to a generation-defining record in the aptly named, The Greatest Generation, back in 2013. The band went on to deliver another exceptional record with 2015’s No Closer To Heaven, then almost overnight, they were gone.
“POP PUNK IS IN A BAD PLACE AT THE MOMENT…”
3 years later, and the band are finally back with their sixth effort, Sister Cities. In promotional material for the album singer Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell described Sister Cities as “the record that their career has been building to.” In all honesty, this is something that couldn’t be more correct. It has felt as though with every release, The Wonder Years have evolved into something that not only encompasses their previous album but adds new bells and whistles to create an incredibly expansive soundscape. Kicking off is the thumping, Raining In Kyoto, in which a chugging verse is met with one of the best choruses in the bands entire back catalogue.
“ At points, you may need a box of tissues…”
Like the previous two albums, Sister Cities, sees the band ditching their New Found Glory-esque Pop-Punk influence in favour of a Sunny Day Real Estate aping, mature emo vibe. This is particularly prevalent on the song It Must Get Lonely, in which a modern rock backdrop is matched by a melancholic yet powerful vocal performance from Campbell. Unlike previous efforts, this album feels very Campbell centric. Sister Cities, features no solo vocal contributions from guitarist Matt Brasch, yet sonically, the album doesn’t feel empty as Campbell’s vocals are layered so well. This is evident in We Look Like Lightning, in which Campbell’s lead vocal is pitted against itself in an almost one man co-vocalist situation.
The Wonder Years really feel at their best on this album when they’re firing on all cylinders. Title track, Sister Cities, harkens back to The Greatest Generation, yet would comfortably feature on a record like Brand New’s classic, the Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me. This is a testament to the incredibly high standard of songwriting that The Wonder Years bring to the table. This can also be seen on the slower songs, Flowers Where Your Face Should Be, and When the Blue Finally Came, as albums like this can often sag when it comes to slower numbers, yet the intricacies in the songwriting make them two of the most interesting on the album.
“this has the potential to be a modern classic.”
It’s hard to think of a band that has had a better three album curve than The Wonder Years, with each being arguably better than the last. This is truly one of the years best releases, and it begs for your time. At points, you may need a box of tissues, yet don’t let that put you off, as this has the potential to be a modern classic.
WORDS: CALLUM HURST
Sister Cities is out NOW via Hopeless Records