The year is 2005 and pop punk is having its heyday. Bands like Blink-182 and Sum 41 are selling out stadiums. Everyone who’s somebody and everyone who’s nobody is listening to pop punk in some capacity. And somewhere in a basement in Lansdale, PA a new pop punk band was forming.
The Wonder Years formed after the breakup of another band, The Premiere. Four members of the Premiere - Dan "Soupy" Campbell, Matt Brasch and Nick Steinborn - met with Mike Kennedy and Josh Martin to discuss forming a new band. At their first meeting and rehearsal in Kennedy’s basement, the band wrote their first song as The Wonder Years. Since then, it’s been a long and wild ride for the band traveling from a smallish town in Pennsylvania to venues all over the world.
When The Wonder Years were hitting the pop punk scene, things were changing. 2005 was the last year of what was considered to be the original pop punk. The once popular genre was beginning to give way to hip-hop and rap. Additionally, 2005 was the year that Blink-182 went on its long-term hiatus after Tom Delonge called it quits with the band. The genre itself was also changing. Pop-punk music was branching into the emo scene and more bands were starting to get into hardcore and metalcore music.
For some bands just starting out, these kind of drastic changes could’ve ended things before they started, but The Wonder Years just rolled with the punches. Instead of trying to play classic pop punk, The Wonder Years play variations of it, sometimes drifting into more emo music, other times going for the hardcore side of things.
What really makes them unique, however, is the content of the songs. Most of the band’s songs deal with growing up and becoming your own person. Some of the songs are more focused on figuring out your relationship with religion while others are about dealing with failure and having to return home. Some are just good, old-fashioned breakup songs. Some are slow and some are fast, but all are characterized by Campbell’s slightly whiney, very melodic voice. This coupled with pop-punk and alternative music create the Wonder Years sound.
On Feb. 18, 2018, The Wonder Years released the first single and the title track of their new album “Sister Cities.” In classic The Wonder Years style, the single is not a traditional pop punk song. Realistically it could be more classified as an alternative rock song. Overall it has a much heavier, darker and more energetic feel compared to most of the other songs. There is a driving drum beat and the guitar riffs help push the song forward. Overall it’s a new great addition to the band’s repertoire and is a great precursor to a coming album.
Other songs worth listening to by the band are “Melrose Diner” and “I Won’t Say the Lord’s Prayer.” The music video for “Melrose Diner” is a weird one dealing with a backyard wrestling league, but the song itself deals with going through a major breakup in an angsty, fun way. “I Won’t Say the Lord’s Prayer” focuses on coming to terms with religion, and specifically Christianity, something that many people from small towns have to deal with at some point. If you don’t think the whole pop punk scene is your vibe, The Wonder Years’ “Burst & Decay” EP is worth checking out. The entire album is acoustic takes on some of the band’s most popular songs.
I’ve been a fan of The Wonder Years ever since I heard them at Warped Tour almost five years ago. I was hooked by their unique take on pop punk. I even wore (and still wear) a snapback of theirs till it was basically destroyed because of how impressed I was of them. All in all, The Wonder Years is definitely worth checking out whether or not you like pop-punk. They have changed the meaning of the genre and helped pioneer a new future for a style that a lot of people thought was dying. With their new album, The Wonder Years can only keep rising from here.