The Wonder Years – Sister Cities

The Wonder Years purposefully step into a whole new era.

The Wonder Years - Sister Cities

The Wonder Years purposefully step into a whole new era.

Label: Hopeless Records
Released: 6th April 2018
Rating: ★★★★

The Wonder Years have ensured these are the golden days with a sound that takes them to a whole new level in ‘Sister Cities’.

After weeks of mysterious postcards, teaser videos and cryptic messages, no one would have expected the bold direction they’ve taken for their 6th album. Dan ‘Soupy’ Campbell still devastates with his vocals and his bleary-eyed worldview, but it’s delivered with a soundless sugar-coated way.

The predecessor to this album, 2014’s ‘No Closer To Heaven’ felt transitional; a foot still in those pop-punk roots and one trying to be “more” and their return manages to dive headfirst into new, darker, territory.

Invigorated, ‘Raining in Kyoto’ opens the album and is an immediate marker of who The Wonder Years are now. It’s immediate and aggressive with thick, pounding, drum beats but is still huge when the chorus arrives.

While on the surface it’s different, under a few layers the ethos of The Wonder Years remains unmoved. As Dan cries, “I drew a line in the sand with these goddam worthless hands” in ‘Pyramids Of Sand’ there is the same heart-on-sleeve passion and anxieties that have always made them a band to cherish.

Soupy’s vocals are the jewel in the crown throughout with the haunting ‘Flowers Where Your Face Should Be’ and the powerful ‘We Look Like Lightning’ which both stay minimal on the instrumentation to let him work his magic.

As an album, ‘Sister Cities’ is all about the journey. The 11 tracks are snapshots of life on the road and being away from home, and that exploration is not just evident in the track titles but also their sounds too.

Despite the journey taking them forward, there always feels like a yearning to go “home” throughout and closer ‘The Ocean Grew Hands to Hold Me’ delivers the lines “I wish the current would carry me home / I’ve been running for a decade now, and I think I’m ready to go home” with such conviction that it’s hard to believe anyone could convince them to leave Pennsylvania ever again.

There is absolutely no room for nostalgia in ‘Sister Cities’ as The Wonder Years purposefully step into a whole new era. They may have come out swinging from a South Philly basement in their early days but now they are at home on huge stages, and they have songs to match. Alex Bradley

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