The Wonder Years – Sister Cities

By Adam Rosario

Being one of the most underrated bands in the world is a hard life to lead. Being one of the most underrated bands in the world for nearly your whole career? That’s something maybe only The Wonder Years can feel.

‘Sister Cities’ is an album about connections, how distance can be traversed through the medium of music. Twisting their tried and trusted sound into even darker places than the predecessor did. The opening salvo of ‘Raining In Kyoto’ is one of the biggest album openers this year. Starting with an almost tribal drumbeat, and Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell’s trademark whisper singer voice, lamenting about loss and loneliness, it builds up into an almost psychedelic riff that morphs into a beefier riff immediately going into the chorus. Campbell has always had an incredible knack of referencing the real world in his lyrics whilst relating them to the message he’s putting across. The chorus, as to be expected, is massive and sets out the mission statement that the band is morphing into an Alt Rock outfit. The middle of the song has a crushing riff that’s very reminiscent of early Biffy Clyro.

The single ‘Pyramids of Salt’ is one of the strongest songs on the album, destined to be in the band’s setlist for a long time to come. Starting off with a very slow build-up before exploding into the chorus with the album stand out lyric of ‘I drew a line in the sand, with these worthless, f**kin’ hands // you washed it away again.’ Whilst The Wonder Years are a very talented group of musicians, Campbell is the star once again. The vocal dexterity he shows is in a different league of musicianship, being able to switch between the haunting whisper to a bellowing hearty voice on the chorus is impressive.

The Alt Rock sound that The Wonder Years incorporate has many influences that can be heard. ‘It Must Get Lonely’ has an Americana vibe in keeping with early Gaslight Anthem, and current day Deaf Havana. Having always been seen as a Pop Punk band, it’s a very refreshing take on their sound, whilst not alienating their fans. The music is bigger and the musicianship has also taken a step up. If Campbell is the star of the album, drummer Mike Kennedy is the main supporting act. The drum patterns are complicated but he hits every note like it’s his last.

There’s also a very slight Foo Fighters influence through the course of the album, taking their patented quiet-loud dynamic and making it their own. The best example would be ‘We Look Like Lightning’. The electronic waves of sound from Nick Steinborn allows Campbell to show himself at his most vulnerable. Going from a soft spoken word piece to exploding into life in the middle, The Wonder Years have clearly nailed the quiet-loud dynamic switch to a very high standard. Closing with what might be the most impressive song from a writers point of view ‘The Ocean Grew Hands To Hold Me’ is just over 6 minutes long and features every member of the band at their best. It might just be the perfect live show closer too.

Pop Punk is in a very interesting place in the musical landscape, with ‘bands’ who are more pop than punk getting all the headlines. The Wonder Years throw the rule book out of the window and write their own, no longer just another Pop Punk band and evolving into a full Alt Rock band with Emo influences. Following up the incredible ‘No Closer To Heaven’ is not an easy task, but they make it seem easy. This is an album that deserves attention, love and support. The evolution of The Wonder Years continues, and long may it.


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