The Wonder Years Changes Pop Punk Forever with Their Second Full Length The Upsides

Billy Morrell ’12

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            Philadelphia natives make locals proud with their sophomore full length album entitled The Upsides.  The Wonder Years captivate their audiences with their very right in your face fast punk, blending that with a melodic indie sound. Vocalist Dan “Soupy” Cambell makes the listener able to relate with his average guy appeal and lyrically-driven songs about change and perseverance.

In opening track on the album entitled “My Last Semester,” Soupy speaks about his struggles with the immaturity of college. “I’m not sad anymore. I’m just tired of this place” is a theme first presented in this song and is a line that appears throughout the whole album. Soupy then explains his wanting to be on the road: “And I don’t, fit in anywhere but the back of the van.”

In  “Logan Circle” the opening line says, “They turned on the fountain today at Logan Circle; I felt something in me change.” Soupy uses Logan Circle as a metaphor to explain a change in his life. The Wonder Years’ uses of Philadelphia landmarks make listeners feel closer to home.

The next few songs, “Everything I Own Fits In This Backpack,” “Dynamite Shovel,” “”New Years with Carl Weathers,” “It’s Never Sunny in South Philadelphia,” and “Hostels and Brothels” although hidden in the middle of the album at first listen may seem forgettable. After many listens, the songs turn out to be anything but.

In “Everything I Own Fits in This Backpack” Soupy tells about how he and the rest of guys have no permanent address and are constantly on tour. They talk of never knowing where they are going or where they will end up: “So we reached the coast, where do we sleep tonight? Damned if I know.”

The song “Dynamite Shovel,” although only 1:04 in duration, says a lot in a little amount of time.  Soupy explains that religious intolerance is no excuse for racism, and it isn’t acceptable at all. The band name drops The Westboro Baptist Church and other religious fanatics and calls them out on their ignorance.

“New Years with Carl Weathers” could be explained as The Wonder Years success anthem. With lines like “It’s gonna be our year boys,” The Wonder Years show high expectations for their career as a band and things turning around for them for the better.

The next two songs “It’s Never Sunny in South Philadelphia” and “Hostels and Brothels” talk about not being happy in the place you are in, whether it is in the home town of Philadelphia or on tour in Europe. Soupy talks about tragedy in Leeds, missing his friends and family in “Hostels and Brothels” and misfortune and things never going the way you planned it in “Its Never Sunny in South Philadelphia.”

“Melrose Diner,” although criticized due to its cliché boy and girl type song nature, I believe is a great song, one of the best on the album. Melrose Diner, named after the diner in South Philly is about Soupy’s issues with girls ending up with guys who are far worse than him. “Melrose Diner” is the second single on the album and a video has recently been made.

“This Party Sucks” is a tale of Soupy’s social anxiety. Before they play the song, Soupy often says, “This song is about how you can’t take me anywhere.”The Wonder Years mock pop culture in the song with lines like, “Cause you won’t find me at the North Jersey Club scene with the girls gone wild B team, I don’t need to pump my fists to look sweet.”

The next song entitled “Hey Thanks” is a complete change of pace from the rest of the album. The intro is just singing complimented by ukulele. Eventually an entire horn section comes in. The song is also complimented by backup vocals by Rachel Minton, the female lead vocalist of “Zolof and the Rock n Roll destroyers.”

The next song, which is the first single on the album is entitled “Washington Square Park.” This is definitely my favorite song on the album.  “So I’m nailing shards of hope together to put something over my head, cause you know here it’s always raining.” Lines like this make it apparent that the song is about hope and change. The Wonder Years show their proactive message throughout the song: “If you don’t like where you are in life, change it. Nobody can change it except for you.”

The final song on the album “All My Friends Are in Bar Band.” is the big album closer. With appearances from various pop punk band members such as Shane Henderson from Valencia, Dave Mackinder from Fireworks, Matty Arsenault from A Loss For Words, Jamie Rhoden from Title Fight, and Nik Bruzzese from Man Overboard.  The song is about dealing and coping with people changing. Soupy name drops friends’ names like “Max dropped out of college” and “So everyone moved in with their girlfriends.” The song ends powerfully with the entire band and friends singing “I’m not sad anymore, I’m just tired of this place, if this year would just end, I think we’d all be okay.”

All in all I would give this album a 5 out of 5. This album is without a doubt the best pop punk album of the year and definitely in the top 10 pop punk albums of all time. Soupy and the boys from The Wonder Years truly matured as musicians and all were able to showcase their abilities in this full length album. Due to its diverse nature of touching upon just about every genre, I’d recommend this album to just about anyone.