“I’m not sad anymore”. It’s the simplest phrase you can think of; a three year old can say it coherently. But it’s the foundation and backbone for a revolution to the pop punk scene that is changing it for the better.
The Wonders Years are the embodiment of overcoming adversity in every sense of the phrase, musically, personally and professionally. They weren’t the first, but simply the best at turning a stagnant scene into a positive force of brutal honesty and integrity. Simply put, The Wonder Years are not only the pinnacle voice of this generation, they’re the single best touring band in the country.
While they’re commonly seen as the new symbol of the pop punk genre, the real threat of this band is actually much deeper. They rewrote the entire playbook for the scene in three records over three years. They’ve never really attempted to be more than they are: They’re just a group of guys trying to figure things out, playing the music they like without hiding behind shitty poetry in an attempt to sound like rock stars or set out to make the next great radio hit. They’re loud, invasive and often times stylishly off key, but it connects to their fans in ways that most bands never mange throughout their entire careers.
Musically, The Wonder Years are ahead of the game as each release shows every member becoming exponentially more talented in their field without changing the formula that they started out in. But it might be their lyricism that helps to connect with so many people. I’d heard The Wonder Years for the first time around early 2009 and thought of them as nothing but a novelty. They were a band that made references to Captain Crunch, created song titles like “Dude, What is a Land Pirate?” and just blasted synth over amateurish sounding guitars. When The Upsides hit, it came like a bomb.
Throughout three major releases, they’ve managed to stray away from obvious topics of girls and broken love, instead tackling topics of life on the road, the harshness of feeling misguided in your early 20’s and trying to make yourself the best you can be, even in the darkest of hours. Their lyrics come from base language and are crafted so that relatable life experiences are approached straight on without fear. In doing so, they have found a way to churn out one unstoppable chorus after another without predictable rhymes.
Each album grows with the band as well; instead of writing more pop songs and seeing their audience outgrow the themes, the themes themselves grow. Where The Upsides started by feeling misguided and out of place in college, The Greatest Generation picks up nearing the age of 30, wondering if the life choices made up to that point were the right calls.
It’s thoroughly thought out writing that incorporates evolving references to past albums and accidental characters that continuously appear (We’ve heard about ‘Richie’ so far on all three records to some degree). It’s a series of small references, but it helps you feel like part of something much bigger each time you find one, and it makes the most recent songs sound that much more important.
Onstage, they’re an explosive force, bouncing and spinning with an energy that their peers oftentimes lack. Saves The Day, a legend of the genre, barely move on stage and instead just play. The Wonder Years are a constantly moving force of energy with bounding set lists to give their shows an energy and camaraderie that makes the crowd feel like part of what makes the songs so important in the first place.
It’s easy to kiss ass to a band you like, but The Wonder Years are something different. They forced themselves out of the profile of another crummy punk band to something profound. They sing to anyone who has ever felt lost to let them know that it will all be okay as long as you never give up, and back it with the crashing pop punk to give you energy to wait it all out.
This isn’t a band that happened to find the spotlight for a brief moment in time. The Wonder Years are the embodiment of a generation that is struggling to find its place in a world that seems out of focus, but aren’t willing to stop fighting to make it work.
by Kyle Schultz
Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and yells at the rain on occasion. He also wants to play you in FIFA.