The Wonder Years grapple with loss, grief


The Wonder Years’ “The Greatest Generation,” the band’s third full-length release, was the album of 2013.

That album got me through moving to the West Coast to northern California, getting let go and moving back home.

Dan Campbell and company blew me away, as they did a lot of people. For those who don’t like the album, it is most likely because it is a different sound from what we had heard from TWY in the past.

Look at TWY’s three major-label releases:

 2010’s “The Upsides” is the first in a trilogy of Campbell’s struggle with himself internally, focusing on the end of college and adjusting to post undergrad life in a band.

2011’s “Suburbia: I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing” is to me a battle with the fear of not being the person someone else needs you to be and an external battle with severe anxiety disorder.

2013’s “The Greatest Generation” is Campbell’s realization that his issues are in his blood and if his ancestors can get through it so can he.

Now, with “No Closer to Heaven,” TWY is growing as a band.

Lead singer Campbell is the only lyricist and has always written songs about himself and his anxiety.

Campbell continues down this path on “Heaven,” but this time the songs have way more substance.  

This time around, Campbell wrote a concept album about the loss of one of his good friends, who died of a drug overdose.

Campbell also has songs on the album about other friends who have passed.

If you have ever lost a loved one with whom you wish you could have spent one more day, this is a record for you.

“Heaven” leads off with “Brothers &,” an instrumental track that introduces the listener to the phrase “We’re no saviors if we can’t save our brothers.” These nine words are heard throughout the album and refer to how the band feels when kids come up to them and say, “Your music saved my life.”

“Cardinals,” the second track, is about a bird that flew into a windshield. But the song has a great beat and lyrics you can sing along to. The bird in a metaphor for loss and points to the realization that all you can do is hold the funeral.

“I Don’t Like Who I Was Then” rates as the band’s best track to date, with tones of angles that are relatable to anyone who has lost someone or who was ever just been in a bad place.

The hook of “If I can manage not to F this up” is something most everyone can relate to. 

“Cigarettes and Saints” focuses on the friend who died and how Campbell is unhappy with how his passing went. It is almost an “I am sorry” letter. 

“Thanks for the Ride” also deals with death, this time that of an undergrad friend. It features a hypothetical scenario in which she has not passed.

In “Stained Glass Ceilings,” Campbell deals with social issues in America. It’s also a song about a kid who kills someone and how he was a product of his environment. 

“Heaven” is a state of mind for Campbell and the song “You in January” offers an example of his being there when he is with his girlfriend.

“Heaven” is an album that is deep but relatable. The music is excellent and I give it five out of five stars.

If you only have time for a little bit of the album, check out “Cardinals,” “I Don’t Like Who I Was Then” and “Stained Glass Ceilings.”