On this day nine years ago, Philidelphia-based pop-punk band The Wonder Years released their sophomore album The Upsides. I listened to the album one year later on February 14th of 2011, and my life has never been the same since.
I became infatuated with The Upsides upon first listen, and the record quickly became one of my all-time favorites racking up hundreds of listens over the time since I first pressed play eight years ago. While eight years may not seem like a long time in the grand scheme of things, a lot has happened in my life since 2011, and the group’s songs were there with me every step of the way.
In many ways, your twenties are the first real years of your life. Your first years out of school. Your first years on your own. Your first years figuring out what the rest of your life will be. The music of The Wonder Years has been with me through every one of those. Their records act as demarcation points in my life because I consumed them so voraciously as they came out that now each one evokes a different era of my own history.
When I first discovered the band I was a senior in high school, on the cusp of entering the unknown expanse of college. The Wonder Years had only put out two albums at the time: Get Stoked On It and The Upsides. I listened to them both endlessly, and one even helped me get through my first real breakup. In the fall of 2011 I went off to college the band released Suburbia I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing. I spent two years in school directionless and depressed, and after two years of soul-searching I finally found my passion. In the spring of 2013, The Greatest Generation was there right as the clouds began to clear. In 2015 I finished school and the band released No Closer to Heaven that same summer. Most recently, 2018 has been marked by the release of Sister Cities which I listened to as I moved across the country to start a new life following my career and passion into the unknown.
All of that has happened in the last eight years, as have the Wonder Years. With each phase of my life, the band and their music continues to intertwine with my existence no matter what I’m going through. I write all this to say one thing; The Wonder Years May not be the greatest band in the world, but they are the greatest band of my life.
On their earliest songs, lead singer Dan Campbell would pen lyrics of struggle and resistance. As I got older, so did the band. Their lyrics shifted from struggling with post-college listlessness to family, community, and acceptance. The band members have gotten married, and some now even have kids on the way. The words have changed, and the feelings have shifted, but the core has remained the same.
The specificity of the lyrics allows the band to weave intimate tales of their own lives and experiences while simultaneously tackling something more significant. They address a universal struggle with existence. They’re poetic, heartfelt, sincere, and human.
The words within the songs have only strengthened this sense of attachment I feel with the Wonder Years’ music. I’m eight years younger than Campbell, and the frankness with which we wrote about adulthood, addiction, depression, and belief connected with me on every level. I feel like I grew up with the band. Not only that, I feel like they gave me a warning of things to come. That my experience mirrors theirs. That we are two parallel lines experiencing the same things eight years apart.
Back in October of 2017, I stumbled across a NYLON article by Helena Fitzgerald. It was technically a review of The National’s then-new record Sleep Well Beast. In the article, Fitzgerald talked about how The National had impacted her. How the band and their albums had been there for every step of her life, releasing music along with every minor and major change of her existence. Something clicked in my head as I was reading her words, and that article became one of my favorite pieces of music journalism I’ve ever read.
It helped me realize that The Wonder Years have guided my life in the same way. I’ve loved bands before, and I’ll love bands after, but this past decade was soundtracked consistently by only one musical force, and was The Wonder Years.
When someone asks me who my favorite band is, I don’t have to think about it twice. I answer ‘The Wonder Years’ instantly and without hesitation. Is it weird for a 25-year-old to love a group that started off as an easycore act singing about zombies? Well yeah, it’s funny at the very least, but I look at the Wonder Years and see progress both musical and literal. They’ve grown up and matured. They’re not the same people who released The Upsides nine years ago, and neither am I. I look at them and see progress. I look at them and see myself.