The Wonder Years – ‘Burst And Decay’

By Chris Hilson

To put it simply, The Wonder Years are one of the most highly regarded alternative bands around. And rightly so – their sound has evolved organically with each album, building on their previous work, but has also been shaped by personal changes, as well as fierce creativity and a hunger to improve.

‘Burst And Decay’ may not be new material but it continues that journey, as The Wonder Years take some of their best and most popular songs and give them a stripped-back twist. Fans shouldn’t worry at all, as it’s not an attempt at changing the songs from their original form, nor is it an empty gesture of a record. What it is is another angle on the music and lyrics, and they’re no less emotional or cathartic than when they’ve been recorded or performed as a full band.

Over the past few years frontman Dan Campbell has crafted himself a brilliant second outlet for writing and performing in Aaron West And The Roaring Twenties, and some of the styles and influences that he has recently explored and embraced have made their way into the songs here. There’s a rawness to the production that gives space to the extra instrumentation, whether it’s subtle organ notes or familiar guitar chords.

If you’re acquainted with the albums that the songs are taken from, then the tracklisting may feel a bit alien at first. Admittedly it is the most minor of criticisms, but ‘There, There’ feels slightly out of place not kicking off the EP, despite the track itself being as brilliant as the original. The other tracks are equally as strong, such as ‘A Song For Ernest Hemingway’, which still packs a raucous punch, particularly each time the drums kick in.

Out of the seven songs here ‘Dismantling Summer’ is closest to its original form, but still different enough to warrant its inclusion. Elsewhere, ‘Coffee Eyes’ has guitars intertwining with Dan’s heartfelt vocals as an already emotional song becomes even more personal and relatable.

The Wonder Years are by no means the first band to release an acoustic EP, and they won’t be the last. But they may just have released the best example. They’ve always set the bar high, and with ‘Burst And Decay’ they’ve raised it again.

 

CHRIS HILSON

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