The Wonder Years
No Closer to Heaven


4.5
superb

Review

by bubbahotep92 USER (7 Reviews)
September 4th, 2015 | 613 replies


Release Date: 09/04/2015 | Tracklist

Review Summary: For a band that released an album called The Upsides this sure is a downer.

There isn't really a good place to start talking about this album. I suppose about the band, The Wonder Years are a sextet from Pennsylvania and No Closer To Heaven is the follow up to 2013's critically acclaimed The Greatest Generation. But you probably already knew all that. The thing is that No Closer To Heaven is so densely packed with emotion, so dripping with sadness, regret, longing, and beauty that I'm physically and emotionally drained. It's like going through a near death experience and then trying to describe what happened right after it's over. Your mind is racing, jumbled, doesn't know up from down. But we'll give it a try.

Dan “Soupy” Campbell is no stranger to depression. He has talked about having it for most of his life, and it's this that took over when attempting to write TGG's follow up. After living with it and going through writers block for months he simply wrote about what he was feeling, and its this raw look at a mind verging on suicidal thoughts and working through it that makes No Closer To Heaven so emotionally investing. In part it's a memorial for lost friend Mike Pelone, but more than that it's about regretting past mistakes and being angry at the twisted world that made all of this possible. It starts right away with opener Brothers & introducing one of the big mantras of the album in it's lyrics, “We're no saviors if we don't save our brothers.” Dan's lyrics truly shine when covering such personal topics with this record containing some of the best he's ever written. A Song for Ernest Hemingway is a great example with a chorus that will surely be added to their pantheon of fan favorites, "I'll be your dead bird/you'll be my bloodhound/You're just doing what you're told/Pick my body off the ground." Another highlight is You In January, an out and out love song, "When you tell me you love me/I can actually see it/Your breath frozen in the air/Newborn droplets of ice/You were the one thing I got right." It actually isn't that much of a stretch to call No Closer to Heaven a concept album, it goes beyond just having similar themes in all the songs and tells a story. A story of depression and it's roots, of working through those and getting to a place of content. It's no The Most Lamentable Tragedy of Titus Andronicus in scope or story, but I guess not much is.

The growth of this band, however, isn't limited to the front man. The music here truly shines as the pinnacle of The Wonder Years' achievements. It's astounding how a band can simultaneously retreat from the Pop Punk sound of their past and also completely revel in Pop Punk tropes. The choruses are huge and soaring, so singable it hurts. The songs are short, sweet, and to the point. And yet they take these basics and elevate them to greater and greater heights. From vocal harmonies akin to the Beach Boys in A Song For Ernest Hemingway to the increased keyboard presence adding to the atmosphere of most tracks, the band has literally expanded their horizons in every respect. Here in the songwriting however lies the album's only real hindrance as there is, for lack of a better word, just filler from time to time. Both The Bluest Things on Earth and I Wanted So Badly to be Brave are very much bland and, while each has moments that stand out, you will find yourself forgetting that these songs are on the album in repeat listens. One of the keys to the rest of the album's success is the use of dynamics. A bad word in most punk dictionaries, this gives each song emotion that just wouldn't be possible if it was a constant loud assault on the ears. Cigarettes and Saints is a great example of this but the best usage is in Stained Glass Ceilings. The song starts out small and soft, featuring clean guitar and Nick Steinborn laying down the most beautiful keyboard on the record, and builds through a huge crescendo into the screams of guest vocalist Jason Aalon Butler (letlive.) alongside Soupy lamenting how we are stuck in, “***ing John Wayne's ***ing God Complex.”

If you remember one thing about TWY's previous album it is the brilliant closer I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral. The song not only was it's own summation of the entire record's themes but also featured a medley of all the high points strung into one giant anthem for Generation Y. So a reasonable question would be, “Does this album close in the same huge, bombastic style"” The short answer is no, No Closer To Heaven doesn't need that, it would feel tacked on and repeated. No this album needs exactly what it has, a short acoustic song that isn't exactly joyful but more bittersweet. Here we see an endpoint of sorts in Soupy's journey, seeing that life isn't really about being happy, it's about being ok with not knowing the future and still working towards it. “We never reach the gates/I'll keep walking anyway/Im no closer to heaven.” In the end this sad album closes with the same theme that the band has always been preaching. “It's not about forcing happiness, it's about not letting sadness win.”



Recent reviews by this author
Zephyr (UK) An Odyssey for the LivingThe Ghost Inside Dear Youth
ERRA Moments of ClarityAfter the Burial Wolves Within
Resist the Thought DamnationAs I Lay Dying Shadows Are Security

user ratings (633)
Chart.
3.9
excellent
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • Ben (4)
    The follow up that the greatest generation deserved...

    NickCapella (4)
    The Wonder Years rise from their South Philly basement yet again to deliver another hard-h...

    FolioMage (5)
    Philadelphia's finest say farewell to pop-punk, and hello to the album of their career......

    brettgoespunk (4)
    The Wonder Years aren't revolutionary, but they are standing out in the best way possible....

  • AtlusP4G (2.5)
    Tired and worn out, from being tired and worn out....


Comments:Add a Comment 
unaMUSEd
September 4th 2015


1441 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Definitely AOTY so far. Wow.

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
September 4th 2015


55354 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

definitely



Digging: Julien Baker - Turn Out The Lights

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
September 4th 2015


55354 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Just going to remind everyone here that the singer of this band goes by "Soupy" and no one seems to have a problem with this

Mutantsnowstorm
September 4th 2015


497 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

I agree with the stuff about bluest things and wanted to be brave, but since they both have parts where the instrumentation is done well or the songwriting excels I chose to ignore the bland nature that they start in. But regardless, great review! Really good description of what this album is

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
September 4th 2015


55354 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

"One of the keys to the rest of the album's success is the use of dynamics. A bad word in most punk dictionaries"



what the fuck does this even mean?

MaySun91
September 4th 2015


31 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Fucking Jason Butler man. Holy shit.

Mutantsnowstorm
September 4th 2015


497 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

trebor- I think he's making a jab at other punk bands who dont use dynamics at all in their music

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
September 4th 2015


55354 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I kind of got that but I feel like that's a stupid stereotype of punk music and would only be said by someone who's idea of punk rock is the wonder years

Cygnatti
September 4th 2015


32005 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Blink is more punx than this band

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
September 4th 2015


55354 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Do people not realize that a year ago The Hotelier essentially made this same fucking record but 100 times better?

mryrtmrnfoxxxy
September 4th 2015


14893 Comments


a bad band

Digging: Weezer - Pacific Daydream

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
September 4th 2015


55354 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

I'm surprised there aren't a horde of Wonder Years fans posting reviews and talking shit about my posts, but then I remembered most high schools aren't out yet

scottpilgrim10
September 4th 2015


4748 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Pretty disappointing. The hooks aren't nearly as good as on TGG.

Cygnatti
September 4th 2015


32005 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Captain were sinkin > hotelier

I think that's what they were called

RivalSkoomaDealer
September 4th 2015


1600 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

What's Mr. Plinkett doing here? Quit talking shit you FRAUD.

Digging: Artificial Brain - Infrared Horizon

Trebor.
Staff Reviewer
September 4th 2015


55354 Comments

Album Rating: 2.5

Hey Na'vi, let me show you my Titanic snow globe

scottpilgrim10
September 4th 2015


4748 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

"Just going to remind everyone here that the singer of this band goes by "Soupy" and no one seems to have a problem with this"



Why would anyone have a problem with a dumb nickname. It's just a name.



Clumseee
September 4th 2015


697 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

First 5 tracks are perfect. And then the rest of the album happens.

scottpilgrim10
September 4th 2015


4748 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

YEAH the first half is much better.

MyNameIsPencil
September 4th 2015


4949 Comments


More like The Wonder Tears

Digging: letlive. - The Blackest Beautiful



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2017 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy