Review Summary: The Wonder Years come out swinging
The Wonder Years have seemingly achieved the impossible with their latest release, by comfortably surpassing the heady expectations set by the standard and success of their sophomore album ‘The Upsides’. The album title is a bit of a mouthful but ‘Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing’ is a partial extract from Allen Ginsberg’s 1956 poem, ‘America’, references from which represent a continuing theme throughout the album. Starting with the glorious opening track ‘Came Out Swinging’, a 0:30 second introduction begins with a nondescript jangling guitar riff overriding the feedback from the amp, a recording of a line from Ginsberg’s poem ‘My mind is made up, there’s going to be trouble’ preludes a drum fill, building to Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell powerfully introducing the album as he belts out the first verse. It’s a phenomenal way to get things rolling. The track concludes by slowing down as Soupy sings ‘I came out swinging from a South Philly basement, caked in stale beer and sweat, under half-lit fluorescents and I, spent the winter writing songs about getting better, and if I’m being honest, I’m getting there’, this is repeated twice more, somewhat more abrasively, as the track closes out.
The album’s tone is further imparted with the following two tracks, ‘Woke Up Older’ and ‘Local Man Ruins Everything’, both of which are catchy as hell and boast impressive choruses, meanwhile, an interesting feature which becomes apparent whilst listening to the album is the frequent references to songs and lyrics from ‘The Upsides’, which, in addition to being a nice touch for fans of their previous release, represents a comforting theme of continuity, backing up their honest and sincere lyrics as a musical documentation of their lives, rather than just miscellaneous songs.
This is followed by ‘Suburbia’, the first of three tracks spread throughout the album which link to its title and serve as interludes. ‘Suburbia’ is just 0:52 seconds long but builds effectively into the fast-paced crowd-pleaser ‘My Life As A Pigeon’. ‘Summers in PA’ is a charming ode to the bands home town in Philadelphia, and boasts the best chorus on the album as Soupy belts ‘There’s something about weeknights in the suburbs, there’s something about me and all my friends, kings of awkward situations, the plum blossoms are falling, I’m more than happy going down with them’.
Lyrically, there isn’t a band out there who so effortlessly encapsulate what it feels like to be a young adult, trying to make your way in the world. Soupy’s introspective writing style, instead of isolating you, draws you in, such heartfelt honesty is almost impossible to achieve in music these days without appearing hammy or contrived, and at no point here is that the case. Soupy seems to have a natural ability to make you care about his life, it’s a strange feeling, and no mean feat.
The next brief title-related interlude is the albums only acoustic track, ‘I’ve Given You All’ is a sorrowful tale about local homeless folk, it’s almost hauntingly beautiful and the poignancy of the lyrics/singing will surely give many goosebumps. The following track ‘Don’t Let Me Cave In’ is striking in its contrast, an uproarious emotional plea with lyrics like ‘I couldn’t help thinking of watching the Sears Tower collapse as a kid, I feel like I might do the same thing’ and a chorus just asking to be sung-along to.
Two solid tracks follow before the album closes out with its greatest song, ‘And Now I’m Nothing’ is a beautifully melodic mini-masterpiece, every glorious second of it emanates a sense of inconceivable majesty, the lyrics ‘Suburbia stop pushing, I know what I’m doing’ are repeated with greater significance each time. The final line before the suitably grandstand 1-minute-and-44-second outro is ‘I’m putting my shoulder to the wheel’, and thus, the album ends as it begun, with a excerpt from Ginsberg’s ‘America’, but you feel somehow different to how you did when the album begun, almost like, no matter what happens, it’ll be okay, it’s a faint feeling which grows stronger through each listen, and one that marks this release out as an instant classic.