ALBUM REVIEW: Burst & Decay (Volume II)

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WRITTEN BY: Vince Barreras

This past January, legendary Philadelphia pop-punk group The Wonder Years celebrated the ten-year anniversary of their album The Upsides (2010). That record put the band on the map and began what would be the groups long and continued career. They have toured relentlessly in support of five studio albums within that time frame, all over the globe. In fact, during the touring cycle for Sister Cities (2018) the band released a special poster commemorating that they had successfully played in all 50 states in the United States. To say that the Wonder Years are heavy weights to the Philadelphia punk scene is an understatement. Their influence is long reaching, especially at home. 

To celebrate the ten-year anniversary of The Upsides, the band shared a new rendition of its track “Washington Square Park” in a fully reimagined acoustic style. This would serve as single #2 for their just released Burst & Decay (Volume II). This EP features seven new acoustic tracks spanning their discography, with completely reworked instrumentation, creating a new context for a band that has been around for the greater part of the 21st century. This time they include features from Little Kruta and Shortly.

Volume I was released back in 2017 just before the bands sixth studio album Sister Cities, so when volume II was announced late last year it gave fans a chance to hear how these old songs can sound in a different style. The band returned to the Lumberyard Recording Studio in New Jersey headed by Nik Bruzzese of Man Overboard and Ace Enders of the Early November, whom they worked with for the previously discussed volume I. Normally, when you think of a band releasing an entire acoustic album it could draw hesitation from fans. In the case of the Wonder Years, to say these are just merely covers of older songs is an understatement. They are a complete band reimagining of some classic tracks, that make them feel fresh and new. Some of these songs are ten years old, yet with the new structure and instrumentation are just as enjoyable as they were all those years ago, giving fans who grew up with these songs, a reason to rediscover them. 

Having songs spanning across their discography gives the band plenty of room to decide which tracks to choose. They decided to start off with “Washington Square Park,” a classic track from The Upsides, and even decided to release it upon the 10th anniversary of that record. This time, the track features an acoustic guitar and a chilled-out Dan Campbell on vocals. Once the verse begins, we are treated to the rest of the band: vocal harmonies that blend nicely together, a much different approach to the original track which was a hard-hitting punk song about the struggles of Campbell’s mental health. “We Look Like Lightning,” a track from Sister Cities (2018) is a nice blend of string section instruments, and a variety of other orchestral instruments. Most notably featured on this track is Shortly. 

“I Wanted So Badly to be Brave,” a track off No Closer to Heaven (2015), sticks close to the original album version, minus the rocking drums in favor of a more mellowed arrangement. “Passing Through A Screen Door,” taken from The Greatest Generations (2013), is perhaps one of the most popular songs in the Wonder Years discography. Lyrically, it talks about Dan Campbell’s anxieties of alienation, and also the societal expectations placed upon someone in their mid to late 20s. The song builds up until the end when Campbell espouses the lyrics, “Well Jesus Christ, I’m 26, all the people I graduated with. All have kids, all have wives, all have people who care if they come home at night…” A powerful sentiment, even seven years after its original release.

“It Must Get Lonely,” taken from Sister Cities and “Cul-de-sac,” yet another track taken from Greatest Generations, sees the band continuing to push this new sound and breath new life into the tracks. “Hoodie Weather” represents the first track taken from their record Suburbia, I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing (2011). A fully present orchestra of instruments are present to give an opera like performance and add a sort of grandness to the entire track, as a means of a conclusion to the album. 

The Wonder Years have always been a band that has captivated their fans, and that can’t be more evident than their previously announced tour dates. Whenever the Wonder Years announce a Philly gig, they sell out immediately and this one is no different. The Wonder Years will be playing a sold out Fillmore on March 21 in support of this new acoustic ep, and fans can expect them to perform other songs in this same style! 

Support the Wonder Years, one of the perennial powerhouses of the Philadelphia punk scene. 

Side A:

  1. Washington Square Park
  2. We Look Like Lightning
  3. I Wanted So Badly To Be Brave

Side B:

  1. Passing Through a Screen Door
  2. It Must Get Lonely
  3. Cul-de-sac
  4. Hoodie Weather

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