Review Summary: I don't know why I'm here, but I know who my friends are...
It takes a pretty special record to warrant being released twice within the same year. That said, if there's one thing you can say about The Upsides
, the second album from Pennsylvanian sextet The Wonder Years, it's that it is quite a special record. A revolt against pop-punk trends, small-town living and young adult pessimism, the album is devastatingly authentic - a no-holds-barred insight into getting through the worst of times. Given, not much has changed between this reissue and the record's January release – a new artwork, liner notes and four new tracks at the end, half of which are different versions of tracks originally on the record. Even so, if you haven't yet been acquainted with this band and what they are about, now is as good a time as ever.
“I'm not sad anymore,” claims lead vocalist Dan “Soupy” Campbell within the first few seconds of The Upsides
. “I'm just tired of this place.” Simple lyrical imagery, yes, but it still manages to speak volumes as the six-piece spit their vitriol left, right and centre in a flurry of triple-guitar attacks, drum flails and screamed lines like “Nobody wants to hear your sappy bullshit
.” Barely stopping to take a breath – aside from when Campbell pulls out his ukulele for the cutesy “Hey Thanks” - the band have shifted from their 80s pop synthesizer and gang vocals to revert to a different kind of heaviness; the kind which doesn't immediately strike out, but lands twice as hard upon impact.
Life has evidently been getting Campbell down since the release of 2007's Get Stoked On It!
– he lives next door to Juggalos, his girlfriend's left him and he can barely afford to put gas in the tank so his band can tour. The message The Upsides
attempts to send, however, is not how much life sucks. You've heard that album – whether it was called Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness
or Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge
, you've definitely heard it already. Rather, The Upsides
is an album of perseverance and endurance - “I'm looking for the upsides to these panic attack nights,” rings out one lyric; “It took almost thirteen months for me to be where I feel fine” goes another. It's an album that refuses to give in – to dismiss it as another release of foot-tapping American pop-punk is to completely miss the point.
The new tracks that accompany the reissue – the passionate “I Was Scared and I'm Sorry,” as well as the brief but tender ode to an old friend, “We Won't Bury You” - are worthy additions to the Wonder Years discography. With that said, it's interesting that the main reason The Upsides
reissue is a strong investment is a reworking of one of the album's highlights. “Logan Circle” was originally another punchy rocker dialled in at breakneck speed with big guitars and an even bigger chorus – here, it is reworked at a far slower pace, with keyboards replacing the main guitar and the lyrics rewritten, under the name “Logan Circle: A New Hope.” The new lyrics are a reflection on friendship, getting one's life back on track and the immediate community: “We wrote The Upsides
in my basement and pissed off all the neighbours/but Jess and I barely slept when they had sex,” he sings with tongue placed firmly within cheek, before adding the final blow: “This street has seen much worse than some fucking
pop punk band.”
Indeed, The Wonder Years might present themselves as just “some fucking
pop punk band.” Repeated listens to The Upsides
, however, is happy to suggest otherwise – these young men are making music with great energy and an endearing, uplifting message. Whenever things are getting rough and feel inescapable, perhaps you, too, can look for The Upsides