Saturday, 15 October 2011

Review: The Wonder Years - Suburbia I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing

 Why do so many people feel to the need need to deny that pop punk's dead? It's alive and fresh as ever, and it's pretty obvious looking around. These days though, the genre is clearly divided into two main sectors. There's the sector in which the pop element outweighs the punk element, where you find bands like All Time Low and Boys Like Girls, then you get the sector where the punk element outweighs the pop elements, where you find groups such as A Day to Remember and Four Year Strong. I've always had more of a preference towards the latter option, and wouldn't you know I've gotten more of a reason to love it thanks to the wonderful Suburbia I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing, album number three from Pennsylvania's The Wonder Years.

 With an intense and exhilarating rush of rapid fire pop punk music, which can be as catchy and fun and creates a desire for one to jump around and party, as well as creating a sound that people will want to furiously headbang to whilst injuring people in a moshpit with it's mass amounts of breakdowns and fiery riffing, The Wonder Years manage to fit the role of a hardcore pop punk group with ease and confidence and listening to this style, a comparison with A Day to Remember can be made fairly quickly. However, this is not what makes the album. Now, lyrics aren't normally for me the most notable feature about an album but in the case of Suburbia I've Given You All... I'll have to make an exception, because this album contains a lyrical marvel making The Wonder Years a band to be taken much more seriously than Jeremy McKinnon's pop punk/metalcore gang.
 Suburbia I've Given You All has something of a conceptual theme to it, mixing together various ideas both personal and as a homage to poet Allen Ginsberg, making various references to his signature poem America, such as the line in Local Man Ruins Everything "I don't have roses in the closet, but I got pictures in a drawer" which refers to Ginsberg's line "I sit in my house for days on end and stare at the roses in the closet". It effectively shows a sense of homage to Ginsberg which in turn proves the wonder years to be a band of more cultural sophistication and variety.
 Other lyrics from the album refer directly to events that occurred around the groups hometown of Lansdale. Sometimes they can be heartbreaking and overall hopeless lyrics such as those of I've Given You All a song  based on the supposedly real event in which a old homeless man was fatally attacked by teenagers. ("He was a Vietnam Vet/ He got beaten to death in Memorial Park under one of the benches/ The cops said it was probably kids/ but no one ever found them".) Lyrics like these give the album a harsher, bleaker and more real view on their lives and where they come from and respect must be given for them to choose to reference such a shocking event. However lyrics regarding their lives in their suburban hometown can also be uplifting and life-affirming, such as the beautiful Summers in  PA which gives a simple but warm image of times spent with friends when younger. ("There's something about weeknights in the suburbs/ And 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") Lyrics like these show a real sense of optimism and joy and manages to create a contrasting view from the lyrics to I've Given You All, showing this to be a truly diverse album, exploring both ends of the emotional spectrum.
 Some of the most marvelous lyrics on the album are the anti-religious lyrics found in I Won't Say the Lord's Prayer, in which frontman Dan "Soupy" Campbell reveals his thoughts on and largely against christianity. ("They don't ask you to think, just to repeat after me/ And assume you're too careless to look at it critically/ You'll stop progress if it contradicts what you're told to believe/ I refuse to spend life on my knees") Well thought through anti-religious lyrics? This is a pop punk album, right? The genre Blink-182 made popular using cock jokes right? So the lyrics seem a little out of place and yet that just makes it all the more brilliant. It agin reveals the diversity of The Wonder Years to unimaginable levels.
 So, Suburbia I've Given You All leaves me feeling fairly optimistic and uplifted and makes me think "I don't normally focus on an album's lyrics, but when I do, they're lyrical masterpieces." This album is simply astonishing in it's ability to tell us a story of the bands life packed to the brim with emotion both positive and negative and deliver it with a wild and passionate punk fueled energy. There's noting else to say about this album apart from the fairly obvious. It's wonderful.

 The Wonder Years' Suburbia I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing is out now via Hopeless Records. The band will tour the UK in November with Yellowcard and Saves the Day.

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