How The Wonder Years Saved Pop-Punk
I’M NOT SAD ANYMORE. If you were a fan of pop punk in the early 2010’s this is a war cry, a proclamation. A proclamation that you weren’t going to wallow in self-doubt any more. That things will get better. I’m here to touch on how a six-piece band from South Philly came out swinging and turned an entire genre on its head.
If you’re anything like me, you grew up listening a genre called pop punk. A genre that has heavy hitting hooks, with silky smooth harmonies. The musically was still hectic, and upbeat. Bands like Green Day, Blink-182, New Found Glory broke through to become mainstays on pop radio. Relatable nature of the songs made it really resonate with teens. Songs about the summer, love, and growing up.
As we got further through the decade groups like Fall Out Boy, Panic! At the Disco, and All American Rejects broke through. These bands had more cheeky lyrical content. More theatrics, and intricate musicality. All these bands paved the way for talent like All Time Low, Mayday Parade, and We The Kings. These bands were more pop than they were punk. Almost every song was about love, and heartbreak, and everything that comes with it. Towards the end of the 2000s people were growing tired the old recycled sounds and concepts...
Enter The Wonder Years... A band that formed in 2005 out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They started out as an Easycore band (think hardcore but in a major key). With silly lyrics, they were just a young band having fun... Then they wrote The Upsides. One of the greatest records to come out of the pop punk genre. The main theme of The Upsides is about growth. With songs like “Washington Square Park” and “Logan Circle” you can experience the day in the life of Daniel “Soupy” Campbell. You can hear the mantra “I’m not sad anymore” all over the album. A rallying cry to let the world know that it won’t keep us down.
In 2011 TWY released “Suburbia: I Gave You All, and Now I’m Nothing”. This album, I felt TWY really honed their sound. With jams like “Came Out Swinging” and “Don’t Let Me Cave In” they touch on rigors of touring non-stop. The effect it had on their psyche, and their body. The music was so incredible compared to a lot of their peers. Mike Kennedy would play the drums with what I like to call controlled reckless abandon. The layers of instruments and keys gave every song on the album a lot of texture that was missing from the genre.
In 2013, TWY released “The Greatest Generation”. In this masterpiece they touch on a lot feelings that I think most people can relate too. Maybe it’s depression. Maybe you’re not where you wanna’ be in life. Maybe you’re holding on to the past. “Passing Through a Screen Door” is the 2nd track on TGG, and the bridge perfectly describe something a lot of people finding their place can relate too. “Jesus Christ, I’m 26. All the people I graduated with all have kids, all have wives. All have people who care if they come home at night. Jesus Christ, did I fuck up”.
With the 2015 release “No Closer to Heaven” I feel TWY started growing out of the genre. They started developing their own sound, and the lyrical content became more personal. Talking about lack of faith, suicide, and even references to Ernest Hemingway and Patsy Kline. “We’re no saviors if we can’t save our brothers” is a huge theme within the album. “Cigarettes and Saints” became my favorite song by them off NCTH. The theme talks about even though they don’t believe in heaven, they still pictured their friend who had passed being there. This album touches every emotion and has brought me to tears.
Finally, with “Sister Cities”, I feel they fully shed the pop punk title. They expanded their horizons and started taking influence from other genres. They touch on addiction with “It Must Get Lonely”. And soupy wrote about a tough time in a foreign country with “Raining in Kyoto”.
The Wonder Years have affected my life more than any other band I’ve ever listened to. They touched on real life problems that everyone goes through. I grew up with them, and they helped me cope with a lot of issues that I went through as a young adult. The Wonder Years saved Pop Punk because they weren’t afraid to push the boundaries of what was normal for pop punk bands.