The Wonder Years usually release albums that are better than their previous ones. However, this is not the case with their fifth studio album, No Closer to Heaven.
The Wonder Years released this album on Sept. 4 via Hopeless Records. It is apparent that the band is trying to dramatically change their sound. The guitars sound richer and more atmospheric, reminiscent of post-rock more than pop punk, and lack the distortion that was heard on The Upsides and The Greatest Generation. No Closer to Heaven sounds more like Transit with Dan “Soupy” Campbell filling in on vocals. The Wonder Years tries to incorporate elements that they have never utilized on previous albums, like having a choir singing backup vocals that sound more like church hymns than pop punk. Credit is definitely due to Mike Kennedy because the percussion is the best thing about this album. It seems like the Wonder Years are going for a more mature sound. However, this new sound has many flaws that the band needs to correct before they can produce an album that is not defected.
No Closer to Heaven is so slow-paced in comparison to their earlier albums. Listeners have to suffer through three tracks of dull music before they get to the best song of the album, “I Don’t Like Who I Was Then.” This song actually sounds like it belongs in the Wonder Years’ discography. Josh Martin can hardly be heard playing bass on any other songs on No Closer to Heaven, but his performance on “I Don’t Like Who I Was Then” is one of the reasons why this track is better than the rest of the album.
The first minute and a half of “Cigarettes & Saints” is pretty boring, but if listeners can sit through it they will receive a little treat. The chorus of this song is good, but the verses could use more energy behind them. They released a music video for “Cigarettes & Saints” that is pretty decent. If you are a fan of music videos then it would not hurt to check it out.
The beginning of “A Song for Ernest Hemingway” sounds more like a barbershop quartet singing in a cappella than pop punk. The Wonder Years should never start their songs off like this. The band needs instrumentation accompanying their vocals in order for it to sound good. This song also has hands clapping in the background, which reminds listeners of doo-wop music more than pop punk. If listeners wanted to hear doo-wop, they could listen to the Parliaments or the Temptations instead of the Wonder Years. This is a good example of how the Wonder Years tried to craft a song that was beyond the band’s depth. The concepts for the majority of the songs on this album are deeper than the Wonder Years’ songwriting capabilities. If the band wants to ensure that they are not risking losing their old fans, they should return to their old songwriting structures.
In conclusion, No Closer to Heaven sounds like an album produced by a band that is either suffering from writer’s block or is trying to reinvent their sound. Neither of these things are good to diehard fans of their older material. This album is mediocre and if the Wonder Years want to keep their old fan base, the band should return to their roots before listeners lose interest. Their new sound is not as satisfying as it was on 2013’s The Greatest Generation. If listeners enjoy pop punk that is smooth instead of rough around the edges, then this is an album you will enjoy. If listeners prefer pop punk that is energetic instead of lethargic, then do not waste your time listening to this album.