The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation: Album Review

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“See people say the greatest generation has come and gone but they’re wrong… They haven’t seen what we’re capable of.”

Everyone, bear with me. This is an album I’ve been waiting months for, and one which I really care about. This is going to be a long article.

I’ve been hyping this album up on the site for a while now. Or better put, I’ve been echoing the hype this album has been receiving all over the Internet on the site for a while now. The last classic pop-punk album I remember waiting this anxiously for was Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown, which I was extraordinarily thrilled with. But not since Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has an album lived up to the Internet-hype so excellently.

In the early 00s, TWY frontman Daniel “Soupy” Campbell broke up with his girlfriend of two years. Subsequently, the other band members underwent life changes that left them as a whole feeling depressed and miserable. Enter The Upsides: TWY’s sophomore effort; a raw punk record about battling depression, inspired by everyday occurrences Soupy witnessed on early morning bike rides. To this day, punk fans will associate the fountain at Logan Circle with renewal. The Upsides established The Wonder Years’s songwriting formula: catchy hooks, power chords, stream-of-consciousness lyrics, recurring themes and motifs, and a colorful cast of characters (a.k.a. their closest friends). It was by all means a phenomenal album, but there was definitely room for improvement.

Building on their successes, TWY released Suburbia: I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing, an ode to Allen Ginsberg seamlessly crafted into an album about self-discovery. Melding aspects of Ginsberg’s beat-generation rambling in the poem “America” with more real-life events, TWY created Suburbia to be a sequel to The Upsides. Names like Max, Spiro, and Dave are mentioned in both albums, and references to tracks on The Upsides are not infrequent on TWY’s third album.

In a YouTube trailer for the upcoming fourth album, Soupy’s narration explains that The Greatest Generation will conclude a trilogy begun by the proceeding two albums. Fans were treated to nothing more than two and a half minutes worth of footage of the band recording and a thirty-second snippet of the album’s opening track “There, There.” Yet from the moment I watched that clip, I knew that this album would claim its rightful place in my all-time favorites, as well as in punk history. The Greatest Generation moves on from just the themes of adolescence and depression and self-discovery, examining growing up in a historical context. The album derives it’s title from Tom Brokaw’s 1998 book about the generation of Americans who fought in World War II. In the album’s liner notes, Soupy argues that this generation has the same potential: “We’re sick of calling someone else the greatest. It’s our turn to shape the world.” Soupy’s lyrics examine PTSD (“I used to have such steady hands/Now I can’t keep them from shaking”), prescription drug abuse (“I’m filling you prescription/The orange bottles stare me down/They’re standing at attention/An army on your windowsill”), the morality of war (“They play the war drum out of time/So I’m not sure where I’ve been marching”) and the meaning of religion (“I don’t think there’s a God/I don’t think that there’s someone coming to save us/And I don’t think that’s the worst news of the day”).

Each song is as good as the next, but my favorite moment comes in the form of the epic closing track: “I Just Want to Sell Out My Funeral.” In a pop-punk defying seven-minutes, TWY ties the entire album together, before offering one of the more powerful stanzas in my recent musical memory:

“‘Cause I’m sick of seeing ghosts/And I know how it’s all gonna end/There’s no triumph waiting/There’s no sunset to ride off in/We all want to be great men/And there’s nothing romantic about it/I just want to know that I did all I could with what I was given.”

Conclusion: buy this album. Enjoy this album.

Jason Sloan

I was brought up on a crazy combination of the Spice Girls and Bruce Springsteen... 17 years later, I've shed my Spice Girls roots and grown to love pretty much everything musical under the sun. I got into punk rock when I was 9 and my mom watched Green Day perform "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" on the Grammy's. When I was 12 my mom bought me a book called "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die," and as she puts it, "the monster was born." I got into rap in middle school hearing Eminem's "Lose Yourself," and I got into EDM this year when I head the Albin Myers remix of Avicii's "Fade Into Darkness." I try and go to concerts when I have sufficient time and funds, some of my favorites having been Rise Against and Springsteen (who I've seen three times each). Hope you all enjoy my music as much as I do. 

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