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Essential Journal

  /  Issue 72   /  10 Years of The Wonder Years’ The Greatest Generation

10 Years of The Wonder Years’ The Greatest Generation

Pop-punk veterans, The Wonder Years, celebrate 10 years of their fourth studio album, The Greatest Generation, with a UK tour and a sold out show in Manchester.

Words & Photography By: Evie Friar

Way back in 2013, The Wonder Years released an album that rounded out a trilogy of coming-of-age records, detailing a suburban upbringing from the sleepy streets of Lansdale, Pennsylvania. The Greatest Generation trod the middle ground of the previous two albums; where The Upsides (2010) felt oddly optimistic and Suburbia, I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing (2011) fell back on more grittier depictions of modern life, the third instalment permeates with a raw honesty that feels even more authentic through a retrospective gaze. It also feels like an album that was carefully constructed for a live performance. The slow build of opening track, There, There, captivates before plunging us straight into the album’s first single Passing Through A Screen Door; a sight to behold in a sold out O2 Ritz, with 1,500 fans screaming along about a past life. 

It’s an effortless feat for The Wonder Years to dive into playing a 13 track album from 10 years ago. The six-piece ensemble look comfortable in each of their own corners of the stage, with grins plastered across their faces in response to such an enthusiastic crowd. It’s something I’ve always loved about the genre – pop-punk, alternative rock, whatever you want to call it – there is a very optimistic community behind such depressingly relatable lyrics, and there is perhaps no better illustration of this fact than a venue full of fans that still connect so deeply with these songs 10 years on. 

Without giving myself away, I’m closer to the age that lead singer Dan Campbell was when writing this record, than he is now. Yet only having listened to The Wonder Years in the past 5 years or so didn’t put me at any disadvantage in enjoying the show as much as their veteran listeners. The album paints such a clear picture of a time and place that it’s hard for anyone not to want to step into its mise-en-scene for an evening or more. As Campbell points out, when making this album, they took chances to ensure that it was varied, even adding in an acoustic ballad – the 11th track, Madelyn – to offset the album’s punchier moments. This was welcomed warmly by a crowd looking for a break to catch their breath, as lighters went up and arms were placed around shoulders, firmly embracing the softer moments from the setlist. 

It’s these moments, with Campbell’s commentary on the album, that really round out the evening. At one point, he ruminates on the time that’s passed and looks briefly to the future, ultimately settling on quite a drastic statement: “We’re a lot closer to the end of The Wonder Years than the beginning.” “That’s not me saying that, that’s just how time works!” he laughs, after his initial declaration was met with boos from the crowd. He is also quick to reassure by stating that it is within their latest album, The Hum Goes on Forever, where The Wonder Years are at their best, before diving into their more recent hits for their second set of the evening.

The night concludes with their most popular hit – and fan favourite – Came Out Swinging, which sees Ryland Heagy of support act Origami Angel join the band onstage to sing a chorus. It’s a fitting end to a career-spanning, double bill of a set. It’s a song that pinpoints life’s undulating moments of hardship and optimisim, with a reflective tone that’s underpinned with a sense of forward-thinking. It’s a song that encapsulates everything that could be felt during this evening as The Wonder Years look back at an impressively relentless career with no signs of stopping just yet.