There’s no devil on my shoulder. He’s got a rocking chair on my front porch, but I won’t let him in. No, I won’t let him in.
To a lot of people who enjoy pop-punk and The Wonder Years in particular, Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing is the benchmark for the genre. It’s aggressive, passionate, and honest - it’s the pièce de résistance.
Nearly two years later, it’s time to turn that “is” into “was,” as that benchmark has been obliterated by the Philly sextet’s new album, The Greatest Generation.
Believe me when I say that The Greatest Generation features the 13 best Wonder Years songs to date. I cannot think of any other band in the genre that can do what this album has accomplished.
Immediately, opener “There, There” lets the listener know that countless hours, sweat, blood, and tears were spent on this album and that the band gave their all. It sets the tone - brilliantly blending slower, melancholy melodies with a punk rock energy. It’s weary yet uplifting - a theme you’ll hear and understand throughout. You’ve all heard “Passing Through A Screen Door” by now. It’s fantastic and the closest you’ll get to a Suburbia redux but rather it’s setting up fans for something they won’t get. It’s definitely the hands-down favorite for having the most lyrics tattooed on fan’s forearms.
The recently released “The Bastards, The Vultures, The Wolves” kicks off the best portion (tracks 5-8) of the album. ”The Devil In My Bloodstream” is something I’ve been waiting for the band to do forever - piano is great, reminds me of Ben Folds in a way - very emotional and personal, something Soupy does very well with his vocal inflections. The female vox (courtesy of Laura Stevenson) give the perfect contrast to Campbell’s rough vocals. The rise in volume/climax at the end feels completely natural as well instead of feeling shoe horned in like some bands do. It’s the most important song on the record - the thematic centerpiece of TGG. “Teenage Parents” is an improved take on that mid-00s punk sound, with the little strain on Soupy’s voice on “ALLL we had were hand-me-downs” totally reminding me of later-era The Starting Line.
"Chaser" feels like the heaviest song the band has done, just in terms of how the riff is delivered without that pop buoyancy. Campbell sings in a lower register which also adds to this. "An American Religion" is ferocious while maintaining a little bit of melody on the chorus - it’s definitely the "angry" song on TGG - it should come with a warning at live shows: “WATCH OUT FOR FLYING BODIES.”
The final one-two punch of “Cul-de-sac” and “I Just Want To Sell Out My Funeral” is what makes this album, in addition with the middle portion. Songs like these are what sets this band apart from the rest of the nu-punk crowd. The guitar work in the former is some of my favorite on the album and the give-and-take shouts between Campbell and (I believe) Josh Martin are fantastic. The bridge is also one of the very best the band has ever wrote.
But the aforementioned closer track is the one though - it’s the one that sets this album apart from the other TWY albums. I still don’t want to give away the general idea of this song, but just make sure you listen to the first twelve tracks in order before hitting play on this one. The build-up to this track adds to its greatness. Anyways, “Funeral” is earnest, honest, urgent, etc. - it’s basically combines all the best qualities and traits of the band and places into a near 8 minute triumph. Is there a current pop-punk band that could pull this off? Definitely not. Hell, there may not be many pop-punk bands from the last 10 years that could pull this off.
Thomas will be blessing us with a probably 8000 word review (only a slight exaggeration) on the site later this week, but I just wanted to get out some quick thoughts and overall impressions on this album. Fair warning: this album may ruin all past, current, and future pop-punk releases for your ears, as The Wonder Years have finally created the album that the rest of the genre will aspire to.