“We’re no saviors if we can’t save our brothers.”
You’d hear it throughout a few songs on No Closer To Heaven. You’d hear Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell’s voice wailing and cracking as he waxes on about the loss of friends, death in general, drugs and so many personal issues that touch us all. Make no mistake, there are elements of The Wonder Years here that you’d connect to their old pop-punk brand but this album is a much more serious diary. It’s alternative rock, driven, guitar-aggressive, written with so much heart and emotion… but more so, it’s a collective of what makes the world tick for a bunch of guys maturing in the face of tragedy.
“Cardinals” embodies so much of what I mentioned above. Catchy, melodic, warm… yet depressing when you realize how much angst it packs. It diverts from the simpler chords of old and it sets the tone for what’s to come. The loud/soft dynamic of “A Song For Patsy Cline” follows this up and starts of hauntingly a la Brand New before bursting at the seams a la Manchester Orchestra’s “Top Notch”. It’s a well-crafted start/stop dynamic that’s loud and in your face — a perfect precursor to “Cigarettes & Saints” which follows the same pattern.
But fret not for the pop-punk elements of old do crop up. And with some fine-tuning to the rougher edges as well. “I Don’t Like Who I Was Then” and “A Song For Ernest Hemingway” are prime examples of this, evolving their old sound as opposed to the preceding paragraph which feels like a stylistic shift to fit a certain narrative. One thing remains constant though and it’s that no matter which gear The Wonder Years shift to, they pay just service to records of old but as they chart new waters, they’re as full of character and real stories as ever. In fact, this is their best work to date. Bold statement but to me, it rings so true. It’s such a human album that feels like our conscience on fire.
4.5 / 5