For a couple of years now The Wonder Years have been steadily gaining speed and worked their way to the forefront of the pop-punk scene. If it hadn’t dawned on you just yet that these guys were leading the pack when “The Greatest Generation” came out, then it should become crystal-clear after having heard “No Closer To Heaven”, the band’s fifth album.
The band’s emo-ish take on pop-punk is still in full effect on “No Closer In Heaven”, but it’s richer than ever before. Just listen to the opening combo of “Brothers &” and “Cardinals” and you’ll know what I mean. Guitarists Matt Brasch, Casey Cavaliere and Nick Steinborn go at it full force with riffs that swirl around each other before gelling together for yet another memorable chorus. They are always backed up in the most solid of ways by the rhythmic tandem of bassist Josh Martin and drummer Mike Kennedy, who are so in sync they probably finish each other’s sentences by now. Throw in gang vocals in all the right places, truly catchy hooks and plenty of dynamic shifts and you are looking at one amazing album.
And we haven’t even talked about the band’s main attraction, which is frontman Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell. He has always had a knack for writing the kind of lyrics that people can relate to while at the same time saving him a trip to a therapist. On “No Closer To Heaven”, Campbell moves away from his battles with depression as he takes on bigger issues. There’s the politically charged “Stained Glass Ceilings”(with guest vocals by letlive.’s Jason Butler) and there’s Campbell taking on big pharmaceutical corporations in “Cigarettes & Saints”, while at the same time commemorating a close friend who lost his life to drug addiction.
As strong as “No Closer To Heaven” is, it is not a flawless album. The last full-band song on here (“Palm Reader”) doesn’t quite hold up to say, “Thanks For The Ride” because holy crap, that song is good! The acoustic closer is a bit underwhelming as well to be honest. But hey, if you haven’t been won over by the time you get to these two songs, then I honestly don’t know what would.