Defiant and hopeful, The Wonder Years have grown into themselves.
Label: Hopeless Records
Released: 4th September 2015
“Maybe I could have made a difference,” cries Dan Campbell on ‘Stained Glass Ceiling’. It’s one of several scrawled asides that act as the source for ‘No Closer To Heaven’s’ message of change as the band yearn for better.
Across their previous three albums, The Wonder Years have struggled with the sense of home but now, with the world watching, they’ve thrown up some questions bigger than their own porch. Their stance is powerful, their gaze steady and their voice, assured.
From the atmospheric shimmer of ‘Brothers &’, through the stuttering but knowing pace of ‘A Song For Patsy Cline’ until the surprising pace of the title track, ‘No Closer To Heaven’ sees The Wonder Years take yet more bold strides forward.
‘Cardinals’ still sounds box fresh despite being singled out for all those weeks and the wrenching point of ‘Cigarettes & Saints’ is made even sharper after the relative fury of ‘I Don’t Like Who I Was Then’. The album, like the band, is perfectly balanced yet constantly surprising.
Eight tracks in and this is the best The Wonder Years have ever sounded. There’s purposeful confidence yet none of the vulnerability that sits their music so close to the bone has been lost as they straighten their backs. What comes next however, sees the band someone achieve yet another level to operate on. ‘Stained Glass Ceiling’ finds them channeling unheard anger, “If these motherfuckers made it to heaven, they’d burn the bridge when they got across,” before Letlive.’s Jason Aalon Butler leaps into the fray. As the white-knuckled snarls flow, the confusion, anger and fear of calling America home is enough to stop you in your tracks.
By contrast the pleas of “Don’t take me home” that sit at the heart of ‘I Wanted So Badly To Be Brave’ are far more intimate yet equally as harrowing. The idea of breaking the cycle still present despite the smaller sphere of influence, “We could be the heroes that we always said we’d be.”
There’s no caped crusade on ‘No Closer To Heaven’, nor is there a single placard to march under but the idea of change is powerfully unifying. “I may never reach the gates,” The Wonder Years admit with resolution at the close of the album. “I’ll keep walking anyway. I’m no closer to heaven.” Defiant and hopeful, The Wonder Years have grown into themselves and discovered it’s not just themselves that need to be different, it’s the world around them. Ali Shutler