Review Summary: Tired and worn out, from being tired and worn out.
Daniel Campbell is a liar! That’s the first thing that springs to mind when it comes to listening to No Closer To Heaven, it’s been five years since he announced he wasn’t sad anymore and if the 4 albums they’ve put out are anything to go by, someone wasn’t being honest. No Closer To Heaven is a complete rehashing of everything The Wonder Years have previously done; yes there’s a greater level of instrumental dynamics than is typical of the genre, yes the band is still pretty good at writing somewhat catchy songs and yes Campbell is still depressed, still sorry he doesn’t laugh at the right times and still pushing that same worn out rhetoric that has made up the bulk of The Upsides, Suburbia and The Greatest Generation.
The problem is that No Closer To Heaven basically spits on everything the band accomplished with The Greatest Generation, TGG saw the band moving beyond their previous work, challenging song structures, layered vocal set ups that put each member to good use, a driving lyrical narrative and all of it was backed by excellent production. No Closer To Heaven feels like nearly every track was produced by a different person, it’s disjointed, at time (Cardinals) everything fits incredibly well, at others (A Song For Ernest Hemingway) it’s a complete mess, by the fifth album in a bands career these sort of issues aren’t going to be glossed over any more.
Truthfully the real issue with No Closer To Heaven isn’t what it does, but rather what it fails to do; previous albums flowed incredibly well, never getting tiresome and worn out. Comparatively No Closer To Heaven loses its steam six tracks in and struggles to regain it for the rest of the duration. The Upsides, Suburbia and The Greatest Generation were conceived as a trilogy and that ends up hurting No Closer To Heaven because the band hasn’t been able to move past that sound into new territory, there are minor stylistic changes that hint at progression but how they’re utilised is damaging to the album itself. Campbell has grown tremendously as a vocalist over the years, but on No Closer To Heaven it appears he’s gotten both too confident and too timid at the same time; on previous works the other band members would often jump in to save Campbell or rather the song itself from getting too dull and boring, with Campbell now contributing 99% of the vocal performance it serves to highlight just how limited his range really is.
The decision to include Jason Butler on “Stained Glass Ceilings” was an interesting choice, he certainly stands out, but at the same time one has to question whether he really fits the sound of the track and whether his appearance is entirely necessary for the song to work. The band itself is still as on point as they’ve ever been, they’re just not doing anything new, they’re not challenging themselves or the listener and unfortunately having built their career on challenging the pop-punk stereotype it’s somewhat expected that they maintain a healthy level of progression. No Closer To Heaven isn’t a bad album, just a bad The Wonder Years album, hopefully some of the minor progressions can be expanded on but for now No Closer To Heaven is a letdown, the style and sound have been played out far too heavily in the past two years (Modern Baseball, The Hotelier, Tigers Jaw), it’s unfortunate that The Wonder Years had to be the straw that broke the camel’s back, but at this point it’s time to say thanks for the ride and move on.