The Wonder Years – The Upsides (Re-Release)
Record Label: Hopeless Records (originally released on No Sleep Records)
Release Date: September 21, 2010
It’s been almost eight months since The Wonder Years graced the pop-punk frequencies with their fantastic follow-up to 2007’s Get Stoked On It appropriately titled The Upsides. Back in January upon this release, nearly everyone deemed this record the best pop-punk record of the year – and this was only the first month of ’10. Sure enough, eight months later, The Upsides has held its ground against numerous standout records in TWY’s genre (Enemy of the World, Keep This To Yourself, Real Talk, etc). Sure enough, Thomas Nassiff was correct: The Upsides is still the best pop-punk release of the year; however, it still constantly battles Enemy of the World inside my ears for this title.
Now, The Wonder Years have signed to Hopeless Records – the perfect label for these guys – to re-release the album that started the entire craze, including four additional tracks not on the original album, which alone make the purchase worth it. Admittedly, when asked to write this review, I was uncertain how to review a re-release, as many phenomenal reviews had already surfaced with the album’s first release. Therefore, I’ve opted to do a recap of the original songs and then mainly write on the four new tracks, as they are the meat behind what makes this record different than the original Upsides.
The reasons why The Upsides rocks are never-ending; be it Dan “Soupy” Campbell’s candidness heard throughout his lyrics, be it the soaring vocals, or be it the infectious choruses and hooks backed by solid musicianship, this record is simply huge. Evident in the opener “My Last Semester,” The Upsides is brutally honest, loud, and in your face. Campbell has quite the way with words and getting thoughts to stick in your head. Furthermore, guitarists Brasch, Cavaliere, and Steinborn keep the tone set throughout the record, and drummer Michael Kennedy sets the beat over Josh Martin’s bass. The following tracks continue alike to the aggressive opener, each exemplifying the true honesty heard in the lyrics over soaring vocals (the raucous “Dynamite Shovel” and “It’s Never Sunny In South Philadelphia”). “This Party Sucks” is a hard-hitter featuring excellent guitar play while the later “Washington Square Park” features some of the best musicianship on the record over Campbell’s wondrous vocals.
The original closer of the record, “All My Friends Are In Bar Bands,” is soft, showing off the skill Campbell possesses as both a vocalist and emotional writer. As what was the end of the record fades out, the new tracks kick off with the huge guitars of “I Was Scared & I’m Sorry” before Campbell sings “And I’ve been trying to find out where everyone’s been / but you’re nowhere” as his vocals ascend over soaring guitars. An acoustic version of the aforementioned “Dynamite Shovel” follows, and The Wonder Years sound tremendous on this stripped down track, reminiscing Four Year Strong on their acoustic sets.
The following “Logan Circle: A New Hope” begins with intricate piano play before soft guitars kick in behind poignant, sincere lyrics. “Logan” is the softest song The Wonder Years have written thus far, and likewise, the complete antithesis of the first “Logan Circle.” The result of this soft track: magnificent and diverse. Following perfectly, the new closer and ballad “We Won’t Bury You” is driven solely by Campbell’s soft voice over faint guitar picking, ending the record on a note of growth and maturity as Campbell ends The Upsides (Re-Release) with the line “And I guess it’s none of my business / but I hope you’re well, old friend”. The final lyric alone conveys the true development of the band, proving the genuineness put forth by each member of The Wonder Years in creating their art.
With this re-release, listeners and fans everywhere will surely fall in love with The Upsides just as they did the first time hearing it. The melodies, lyrics, and intricateness are omnipresent, and the additional tracks are better than expected. It’s official: The Wonder Years have released the best pop-punk album of 2010 – The Upsides.