As time marches on, Philadelphia's The Wonder Years distance themselves further and further from their black and white pop punk beginnings, growing and maturing as individuals alongside their career. With the release of their sixth full-length album, longtime fans will appreciate the lyrical subversion of Dan Campbell normally writing about the purgatorial nature of their northwestern Philadelphia suburbs, as Sister Cities instead showcases The Wonder Years projecting themselves outward to all aspects and locations of a relentless touring lifestyle.
Campbell's vocals soar on the chorus of 'Raining In Kyoto', his voice showing just enough restraint on the tenacious opener so that when it comes time for a reprise later in the track the impact is all the more greater. Moreover, the title track is an ultimately satisfying burst of energy that captains some of Campbell's more vulnerable lyrics with confidence.
Perhaps one the biggest things to appreciate about Campbell's lyrical growth is that he never stops writing about what is relevant to him. Such, all throughout Sister Cities you'll be fed classic lines about growing up, embracing adulthood and falling out of love, but also an unshakeable thoroughfare about simply dealing with life. We all share in experiencing the day to day struggle and it's refreshing to see such lyrical honesty about how we go about this at such a basic level.
There were numbers on No Closer To Heaven that played a bit more with melody, namely tracks like 'Cigarettes & Saints' as well as the eponymous closer helped curb some of the raw aggression already built up and in doing so ended up being some of the album's highlights. In this regard, Sister Cities follows in a close suit to its predecessor; 'Flowers Where Your Face Should Be' is a bittersweet ode to the separation Campbell feels from his wife on tour and 'When The Blue Finally Came' is a neat little anecdote about cliff jumping into the ocean and the release of anxiety as one makes the decision to perform something that fills them with dread.
Perhaps the album reaches its pinnacle during the mammoth closer of 'The Ocean Grew Hands To Hold Me'; an exercise in restraint, basking in its expanse right before sweeping guitar melodies close out the album's tail end across its climactic second-half.
Ultimately, Sister Cities isn't referencing the chemistry between Campbell's hometown and that of his ideal romanticized neighbourhood, it's an all-encompassing dialogue built on experience about the places seen while on tour, being separated from others by the same seemingly infinite ocean as well as acknowledging the magic that certain cultural and human exchanges can transcend borders and language.
Dre’s Top Three:
- Raining In Kyoto
- The Ghosts Of Right Now
- The Ocean Grew Hands To Hold Me
Hey. There's still a few pre-order bundles left for Sister Cities. You won't want to miss out on this one!