Review: The Wonder Years – The Upsides

Artist: The Wonder Years
Album: The Upsides
Genre: Pop Punk
Label: No Sleep

Every few years an album comes along that completely changes the foreseeable future of that genre. In 1994, three vastly unknown musicians who worked under the name Green Day released Dookie and changed how people looked at pop punk forever. There was all the heart and skill of contemporary punk/rock, but also this raw, youthful attitude and perception of life that’s simply impossible to manufacture. That record took pop punk to the masses and five years later, Blink 182’s Enema of The State came along and thanks to MTV,American Pie, an appearance on The Simpsons, and more, pushed the pop punk scene 100% into the public eye. Unfortunately since the turn of the new millennium there’s been a lot of talk and a lot of promise of another genre changing album, but none have fully pulled it off. Until now. On January 26th, The Wonder Years will release their Sophomore full length, The Upsides and pop punk will never be the same.

Coming off of a year that only saw them them releasing two new songs [2009], The Wonder Years are kicking off 2010 with a message in hand and that is simply, “I’m not sad anymore.” That’s right, while most up and coming acts seems to focus on heartache, teen angst, isolation, etc., The Wonder Years are looking at the lighter side of life on the fittingly titled The Upsides. Vocalist Dan “Soupy” Campbell actually uses the phrase “I’m not sad anymore” quite frequently throughout the release which only serves to drive the point further home because after 22 years of quote “wading through bullshit” Soupy and the rest of The Wonder Years are taking their lives into their own hands. On “It’s Never Sunny in South Philadelphia” Campbell even makes that fact known with the line, “because most days are bad days and I can’t just wait for someone to pick me off of the concrete.”

As great as the mention of seeing the glass half full and taking your life into your hands is a refreshing and strong message to send, what really stands out on this record is simply The Wonder Years as a whole. Musically, the group seems to traverse nearly the entire expanse of modern pop punk over the duration of the album and even do a bit of experimenting on the catchy ukulele lead “Hey Thanks.” Lyrically, well, there’s literally not enough I can say about the quick-witted tongue of Dan Campbell and the tales he weaves through chugging chords and pounding drums. “Melrose Diner,” for instance, paints the most relatable post break-up scene ever captured in music while the closing track “All My Friends Are in Bar Bands” will hit home for literally EVERYONE working/hoping to work in the modern music industry.

To put it simply, The Upsides is without a doubt, the best pop punk release of the last decade. The wonder Years have written the handbook for pop punk to come and set the bar for all up and coming acts pretty high. Every true music fan born in the last 30 years will take something away from this record that will stick with them for years to come and really, what else needs to be said? Buy this album. No, buy 3 copies and make two people the happiest they’ve ever been while listening to music.

Score: 9.9/10

Written by: James Shotwell

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • 4th Wayvor

    i feel like The Wonder Years aren’t really part of the modern pop punk scene. like, they are self described as pop-punk, but when was the last time you heard of them at a punk fest, touring with acknowledged punk acts, or (as a punk rocker myself) even heard of them, aside from this site?? its not even that i dislike them, i just dont think they’re very punk.

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  • I agree. I’ve been a fan of The Wonder years for a while, and as soon as I heard The Upsides I fell in love all over again. They are definitely one of the most underrated bands there is, more people need to know about them and take away the same things from their music I do. They taught me always to find the good in even the worst of situations.

  • Really good movie, I watched it a ton of times :)

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