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Wonder Years, The - The Upsides Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 9
Musicianship 8.75
Lyrics 10
Production 9.5
Creativity 8.75
Lasting Value 10
Reviewer Tilt 10
Final Verdict: 94%
Member Ratings
Vocals 8.69
Musicianship 8.97
Lyrics 9.17
Production 9
Creativity 9.25
Lasting Value 9.47
Reviewer Tilt 9.5
Average: 92%

Wonder Years, The - The Upsides

Reviewed by: Aziraphale (12/21/10)
The Wonder Years - The Upsides
Record Label: No Sleep Records
Release Date: January 26, 2010

“A realization of potential.” If I could describe what happened in the studio while The Wonder Years were recording the follow up to 2008’s Won’t Be Pathetic Forever, it would be those four words. And those would not even do the band justice. It isn’t every year that a mediocre band with some noticeable potential transforms into a scene defining quintet, releasing not only what is the finest album of the year, but also one that will catapult the genre into new territory single-handedly. On the surface, The Upsides is an incredibly well rounded, raucous, and undeniably fun pop-punk record that will please anyone who has ever enjoyed a 5 piece rock band that can write a catchy hook. But it only takes a couple complete listens to see that this record is so much more. At its core, it is both a nod of empathy to the pessimistic and jaded young adults of our society, but more importantly a message of hope and triumph to those same people that says “We know the ways that life for our generation can break us down, but this is how we can all pick ourselves back up”

Right from the get go, front man Dan Campbell shows that this is going to be a personal journey, as he delivers the theme of the album in a consistently recurring line and the opener of "My Last Semester"; “I’m not sad anymore, I’m just tired of this place” This line, backed by a few soft arpeggiated chords from guitarist Matt Brasch quickly reaches escape velocity as the rest of the band come crashing in, setting the tone for the rest of the record. Throughout its 40 minute run time, The Upsides is an energetic mass of crunchy (but never overworked) guitar riffs, relentless drumming and soaring vocal arrangements. There’s never a dull moment, as tracks like “Everything I Own Fits In This Backpack” and “Melrose Diner” make it impossible to pick a defining single for the record. The Wonder Years have perfected their song structuring right down to the each string pluck and cymbal crash, so that the instrumentation achieves the absolute goal for which it was designed; a constantly entertaining vessel for the message the band wants to send.

In the end, it is Campbell’s writing that will etch The Upsides into pop-punk history. This is where the realization of potential truly takes place. It’s one thing for a band to create songs with meaningful messages, but an entirely different and more impressive feat to construct an entire album around one over-arching theme. Every song Campbell penned for this record will draw listeners in, relating events and feelings so personal and unfiltered that by the time the last track finishes, the listener feels as if they have known him for years. Initially it seemed that this extremely personal writing style (right down to name dropping closest friends) may be the only drawback, creating songs that are impossible for a diverse audience to truly relate to. By the end of the record, however, the message has been so well developed through these personal anecdotes that it actually sticks with the audience in a more efficient manner, the way a detailed dialogue from a literary character does.

The closer of the album, “All My Friends Are In Bar Bands”, cements The Upsides as a truly genre-defining work. The song starts slow, with Campbell relating some of the paths that his closest friends have taken in their young lives, while the rest of the band takes the intensity down a notch in the verses only to bring it back to a huge chorus. The song ends with five guest vocalists, fellow musicians as well as close friends of the band members, all taking turns singing the theme line from the album with a finalizing twist; “I’m not sad anymore, I’m just tired of this place, if this year would just end, I think we’d all be OK” The implementation of this idea hammers home the optimistic emotion the band has cultivated. It serves as a way of saying “We’re all in this together, and if we can see the upsides in life, together we can make it through anything.”

Recommended If You Likefun music with substance, any kind of pop punk


myspace.com/thewonderyears
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 24
11:52 PM on 12/30/10
#2
sxetravisx
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awesome review. absolutely the best record of the year for me.
01:07 AM on 12/31/10
#3
Macbeth.
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Its fun to read different reviews of this as I've gotten to different stages of enjoying it. I think this review is pretty general, but definitely nails the definition of cohesion on the record. Good job!!
06:35 AM on 12/31/10
#4
Matt Chylak
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The "realization of potential" thing you kept harping on felt really forced. To do it better, you should have compared it to their last record. I.e. where on their last record...the upsides...
08:51 AM on 12/31/10
#5
JTMcKrackles
I'm not sad anymore
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This is a stellar review. Sums up exactly why The Upsides is the Album of the Year
09:09 AM on 12/31/10
#6
incognitojones
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Good review, makes me want to listen to it again.
09:39 AM on 12/31/10
#7
providence36
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this album wasnt very good in my opinion, i dont see what the fuss is about
10:39 AM on 12/31/10
#8
iam_theculprit
No more, I implore.
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Good review. Finally got the album for Christmas and can't stop listening to it.
10:53 AM on 12/31/10
#9
Aziraphale
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The "realization of potential" thing you kept harping on felt really forced. To do it better, you should have compared it to their last record. I.e. where on their last record...the upsides...
I don't feel like I was really harping, it was only mentioned twice. But to be totally honest, I really didn't listen to their old material much, because I really didn't care for it. It was, as I stated, mediocre (at best). To me, there wasn't a gradual progression to the point where they are now, they just sort of got everything right all the sudden. Thanks for the feedback! This is the first review I've written for the site, good to see people are at least reading it.
11:00 AM on 12/31/10
kinkywizard90
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I can't believe you gave this album's lyrics a 10. I'm personally offended.
02:10 PM on 12/31/10
Colinmac36
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solid review couldnt agree more, great job!
02:36 PM on 12/31/10
Matt Chylak
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I don't feel like I was really harping, it was only mentioned twice. But to be totally honest, I really didn't listen to their old material much, because I really didn't care for it. It was, as I stated, mediocre (at best). To me, there wasn't a gradual progression to the point where they are now, they just sort of got everything right all the sudden. Thanks for the feedback! This is the first review I've written for the site, good to see people are at least reading it.

harping was probably the wrong word, but it felt very forced.
you can't talk about their progression and ignore what they progressed from. end of story
03:23 PM on 12/31/10
Stephin_DC
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I think this review just sums up all of what is wrong with record reviews on this site
94% = are you fucking kidding me
yeah, the record has a good message behind it and yeah, i guess it is pretty decent compared to other records released this year in the genre but by no means does it deserve 94%. Every record I listen 2 I do personal reviews for them and the highest I've ever given a record is 9.2 or 92%, and that was for Clarity, and the upsides is not nearly as good
04:13 PM on 12/31/10
brandon_260
Ah, yes.
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This is my album of the year, no question.
07:11 PM on 12/31/10
ReadyForAction
life in the greenhouse effect
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Lol at people bitching about the score, it's a review for a fucking website not The Rolling Stone
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