Release Date: Apr 6, 2018
Record label: Hopeless Records
...after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world. When I first heard The Greatest Generation shortly after its release in 2013, I thought it was half-great. The songs I liked sounded monumental and gigantic, and I found myself skipping everything else to get to them. I then did the same thing with No Closer to Heaven two years later.
I never dug much further than that however, so it came as something as a surprise to find that not only is Sister Cities the band's sixth album, but The Wonder Years clearly aren't the same band that soundtracked fleeting summers several years ago. The band have matured, and grown up; no longer is their staple diet pizza and pop-punk. Instead, Sister Cities is a sullen, brooding album in which the optimism of youth has bled out, replaced with a cathartic cynicism and gut-wrenching heartbreak.
For the better part of the last decade, The Wonder Years have become experts in offering up lyrically astute, meaningful pop-inflected rock. With their latest effort - and sixth record to boot - they continue that trend, with frontman Dan 'Soupy' Campbell once again painting excruciatingly detailed pictures of life's challenges, frustrations and connections. Building upon the darker foundations of 2015’s ‘No Closer To Heaven’.
In the decade-plus since the Wonder Years formed outside Philadelphia, there have certainly been more popular and beloved pop-punk bands, but very few have insinuated themselves so credibly into the conversation as a band to believe in. The Wonder Years put themselves forward as the type of band a young fan could build an identity around without worrying that it would seem embarrassing years later. That's proven remarkably true: Even as predecessors like Brand New have slid into ignominy, the Wonder Years--tracking a roughly parallel creative arc--have kept going, leaving suburban frivolity behind for broader musical horizons, darker thematic material, and dozens of imitators.
I'm not sure how many fans share my view of The Wonder Years in that they keep getting better and better by the record. Maybe it's the way the narrative matches me in my 30's but there's just something about Dan Campbell's words that hit home pretty hard at this point in my life. I've thoroughly enjoyed the last two records but surprisingly Sister Cities manages to outlast them all.