The Wonder Years – Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing
by Jeff Curry (Behavioral Neuroscience), published June 21st 2011
Moldy | Stale | Edible | Fresh | Tasty!
The day after tomorrow marks the one year anniversary of the fateful day I traveled with my good friend and fellow Husky, Taylor, to the Theatre of Living Arts in Philadelphia to see Streetlight Manifesto for the third time. Streetlight had no new material for this tour and the TLA was a bit of a smaller venue than we were used to. So for the first time, instead of leaving an hour early, we graciously accepted a seat on the second floor. Being unfamiliar with the opening band also didn’t really do much to encourage us to squeeze through the crowd towards the front gate. Glued to my chair as The Wonder Years came onstage, lead singer Dan “Soupy” Campbell took a moment to graciously thank us all for coming to their biggest hometown show yet. A few seconds later, I stood up.
That evening I became a huge fan. Brimming with powerful and upbeat songs, The Upsides quickly propelled itself safely into my top ten favorite albums ever. The main reason that I set The Wonder Years on a higher pedestal than other pop punk bands is specifically because of their lyrics. Overflowing with literary and pop culture references, stories and jokes from the band’s past and various lessons on life, The Upsides told heartfelt story after story. This paved the way for The Wonder Years to go from obscurity to a realm far beyond the likes of any other pop punk band. Their new LP, Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing only pushes this gap further. The album is more than just The Upsides 2.0; it perfectly encapsulates everything a band could do when writing a follow-up to a nearly flawless album.
On The Upsides, the first and last tracks were the best. Suburbia follows suit, beginning with “Came Out Swinging”, an explosive song that immediately showcases the band’s more focused and mature sound. The two highlights of the meat of the album are the atheist-friendly “I Won’t Say the Lord’s Prayer” and “Coffee Eyes,” a triple espresso of emotion shoved into 3:40 about Melrose Diner, a hometown restaurant where the band spent much of their teenage years. The album closes even stronger than it began with the best TWY song to date, “And Now I’m Nothing”. At just over five minutes, it’s their longest effort, which works out nicely for the listener. I can’t lie to you all; I might have shed a tear after really digesting this song. I still get a bit of that feeling when Soupy and Josh Martin alternate the line “Suburbia, stop pushing. I know what I’m doing” at 2:11.
That hook really goes a long way to sum up a lot of what The Wonder Years are about. They’ve been through less-than-perfect childhoods growing up in South Philadelphia, the deterioration of high school friendships, the deaths of friends, and various forms of societal isolation. The Upsides was an album about change and finding a way around life’s many unexpected twists and turns. In The Upsides’ 39 minutes, they outlined their plan to get away from everything bad about life in Philadelphia. In the 40 minutes that make up Suburbia, The Wonder Years have given us a one year check-up, and it seems as if they’re doing just fine. As Soupy says on the first track, ‘I came out swinging from a South Philly Basement, caked in stale beer and sweat, under half lit fluorescents, and I spent the winter writing songs about getting better, and if I’m being honest, I’m getting there.’
Recommended Tracks: Came Out Swinging, I Won’t Say the Lord’s Prayer, Coffee Eyes, And Now I’m Nothing