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Review: The Wonder Years – No Closer To Heaven

The Wonder Years
No Closer To Heaven
Hopeless/UNFD

For a lot more than just the music itself, No Closer To Heaven is an exceptionally important album for The Wonder Years. Their past three full-lengths – The Upsides (2010), Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing (2011) and The Greatest Generation (2013) – have served as a trilogy that detailed frontman Dan Campbell’s personal struggles with anxiety and loneliness. Taking the local scene nobodies and catapulting them to international stardom, it’s those three albums we have to thank for the Philly sextet’s utter domination of the pop-punk scene.

A concept album exploring the fictional loss of a loved one, No Closer To Heaven is the first Wonder Years album that we’re walking into blind. The thematic pillars of Campbell’s self-destruction aren’t there for us to lean on, and so we’re left to peer into the void, uncertain of what may lie ahead. Furthermore, the record marks a huge change in style for the band, trading gooey pop-punk hooks for stormy emo moodiness.

Having pushed himself to tackle a work of fiction with the same personality that he does on songs about himself, the lyrical content on No Closer To Heaven shows a world of maturity from the past two years of Campbell’s creative evolution. It feels a lot heavier than previous releases, if not musically then in the crushing sobriety of the record’s storytelling, at times downright polarising in its delivery through songs like “Cigarettes And Saints” and “Stained Glass Ceilings”. Musically, No Closer To Heaven puts forth some of the most gripping melodies The Wonder Years have conjured in their 10-year span. Poor mixing plagues the record throughout, but the production’s muddiness and enervation can almost be seen as an extension of the album’s overarching concept.

A galvanising fireball of emotional rawness and passion, the record in its entirety boasts a tighter and more invigorated sound than we’ve seen on previous releases, but through and throughout, this is still undoubtedly The Wonder Years. Casual listeners are likely to find that the album starts to drag around the halfway mark, but devotees to the collective will relish in its lengthiness. Relish away, guys – you’ve earned this one.

No Closer To Heaven is out now through Hopeless/UNFD.
Grab a physical copy: JB Hi-Fi | Webstore

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