The Wonder Years are not what you would call a happy band. They don’t necessarily make music you would put on at a party or even in the car with your friends. They do make music that makes you think, especially if you’re in your twenties, about your life and where you’re heading. It’s music that can be described as real and intimate. Music about finding and defining who you really are.
The Greatest Generation, the follow up to their sophomore offering of Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing, was released a few weeks ago, and I’ve finally had enough time to listen to and digest the album. The band has said that Generation was to be the close of a trilogy, starting with 2010’s The Upsides and followed by Suburbia (2011) and it sure feels like one. The Upsides hit perfectly in catching the feelings of college aged kids, how your early twenties can be a confusing time split between relationships, friendships and what the hell you’re supposed to be doing with your life. Suburbia was the next logical progression, exemplifying the awkward phase when you’re transitioning from dumb college kid to full fledged adult, in the real world, with real responsibilities. Tough subject matter for anyone, but the band managed to nail it through two albums as they grew up through the phases themselves.
Which brings us to The Greatest Generation, a different album from the previous two. Generation isn’t the funeral of this trilogy, it’s post funeral, when everyone has gone and you’re left alone with your thoughts. Lyrically, Generation takes shots at a lot of themes. The song “Passing Through a Screen Door” feels like coming back to a place you were determined to leave behind. “Dismantling Summer” deals with aging and dying, while the aptly titled “Teenage Parents” tackles being young and poor. When lead singer Dan “Soupy” Campbell sings about only having hand me downs and Goodwill, you realize that for some people, Goodwill shopping is a little more serious than Macklemore would ever let you know.
The most powerful song on this album “The Devil in My Bloodstream” brings everything together. Campbell singing, “I wanted to see just a little bit of everything” gives you the feeling he didn’t mean coming back home for a funeral, and when he finally shouts, “I bet I’d be a fucking coward, I bet I’d never have the guts for war,” Generation finally starts to take shape as an album about defining the Millennial Generation with everything from the previous albums falling in line. Campbell explained it best in an interview with PureVolume when he said, “We’re not being drafted [to war] and so our generation was expected to go to college and expected to learn and you’re finding out a lot more about ourselves because you’re afforded these couple of years to figure out who you are and how you want to affect the world. Now it’s time to affect it.” Generation caps off a trilogy of albums focused on those couple of years that Campbell refers to. It’s not so much a blueprint of how to change the world, but more of a message letting you know it’s OK to try. The Wonder Years have helped listeners define themselves over the past three years, The Greatest Generation is about putting that chapter of life to rest and moving on.
The Greatest Generation is available everywhere through Hopeless Records.