The Wonder Years - The Upsides (Cover Artwork)

The Wonder Years

The Wonder Years: The UpsidesThe Upsides (2010)
No Sleep Records

Reviewer Rating: 4
User Rating:

Contributed by: BryneBryne
(others by this writer | submit your own)

The Upsides ought to remind a lot of you of those gloriously awkward years of middle school and high school where social interaction was difficult and all you wanted to do was scurry home, forget about the "F" you got in algebra and cozy up with a pack of Oxy pads and your favorite Drive-Thru Record.
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The Upsides ought to remind a lot of you of those gloriously awkward years of middle school and high school where social interaction was difficult and all you wanted to do was scurry home, forget about the "F" you got in algebra and cozy up with a pack of Oxy pads and your favorite Drive-Thru Records compilation. The guys in the Wonder Years were all just like us back then, and just like us they've grown up, but not without forgetting those sugary hooks and memorable choruses. Instead, they've taken those musical traits and the adolescent enthusiasm that's inherent in music like this, and molded it with mature lyrics that range from being personally revealing to socially conscious. Basically, The Upsides ain't pop-punk where it's all about the girls, and it's a breath of fresh air in a genre where far too many bands end up repeating themselves.

Some of the topics explored on The Upsides include shallowness ("This Party Sucks," "Melrose Diner"), closed-minded rural homophobia and racism ("Dynamite Shovel"), the vagabond-like tribulations of touring ("Everything I Own Fits in This Backpack") and insecurity ("Washington Square Park"), among other things. It's all stuff we've heard addressed before, but never in such a tone. Vocalist Dan Campbell's delivery is late '90s/early '00s pop-punk 101; the pitch at which he sings his words will undoubtedly be too high for some to handle, but it fits the music the four dudes behind him are playing like a glove and he never tries to wail beyond his range, thank goodness.

Going back to the music, the band's compositions are tight and it's obvious they're all above-average musicians; touring incessantly and hitting the practice space hard when they're home has undoubtedly helped these guys avoid that all-too-common pratfall, never sounding too big for their britches. The guitar-driven hooks in songs like "Washington Square Park" (especially the intro) and "It's Never Sunny in South Philadelphia" are undeniably catchy, and Mike Kennedy's drumming is subtly impressive throughout the album. The hardcore overtures the Wonder Years displayed in some of their earlier material never really show up on The Upsides, and the songs are better for it. Not every new-school pop-punk band needs to be Set Your Goals, nor should they all try.

A notable curveball occurs toward the end of the album with "Hey Thanks," a ukulele (played by Campbell) and trombone-driven song that, ironically, does seem to be about a relationship of some kind. The track also features backup vocals from Rachel Minton of Zolof the Rock and Roll Destroyer, her voice molding seamlessly with Campbell's in the chorus. It's a fun, non-essential treat that doesn't diminish the album's effectiveness, but it might've been better served as a B-side or even a hidden track.

The Upsides documents a band on the rise. The Wonder Years' abilities have traveled light years in a relatively short amount of time, and judging by their raucous live show, kids are starting to take notice. You should, too.


People who liked this also liked:
The Menzingers - Chamberlain WaitsThe Wonder Years - Suburbia I've Given You All and Now I'm NothingThe Gaslight Anthem - The '59 SoundJoyce Manor - Joyce ManorTigers Jaw - Tigers JawThe Flatliners - CavalcadeDear Landlord - Dream HomesDescendents - Milo Goes To CollegeThe Gaslight Anthem - American SlangIron Chic - Not Like This

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Fine Print: The following comments are owned by whoever posted them. We are not respon sible for them in any way. Seriously.
assman (March 8, 2011)

This is probably the most honest album and band I've come across and I've never doubted their motives for a second. It may have started as partly a joke, but clearly after that first album they loved what they were doing and the sound and lyrics to each release after that steadily got more serious.

And the album isn't about being positive no matter what, like someone said. It's about not killing yourself. Read Campbell's book, Paper Boats, and you can see where this album's theme came from. The instrumentals fit perfectly between their classic sound and a new, more serious TWY. They're not fine tuning their sound to sell anything -- they're fine tuning their sound because they're just getting better.

NON_HEINOUS (February 19, 2011)


I was not taken away from this record, infact the only reason i ever listened to it was because a friend of mine told me there was almost no keyboards on it. Their previous stuff was loaded with the trendy breakdown, gang vocal,keyboard every where possible stuff and after two songs, it loses its touch.

but after giving it a few listens, the jams ' melrose diner', 'hey thanks', and 'all my best friends are in bar bands' stuck out. Melodic and honest, the formula for pop punk...

One thing you have to hand to these guys is the work ethic, these dudes are true fucking road warriors and they are becoming the unstoppable machine.

with that being said, the lyrics in the first song "no one wants to hear your sappy bullshit' seems a little weird considering other lyrics are 'cant play video games cause ill end of depressed,i cant be left alone for even a second, im a burden' and im sure its eased with with the ' im not sad anymore' theme, but just sits a little weird for me.

def interested in the new recordings, the new dude on guitar who played drums when kennedy left, is awesome!


headabovewater (August 24, 2010)

Anyone who hates on specific albums doesn't have anything better to do. What's the point? This is the most real band out there, complete truth and the furthest from trying a to make a quick buck. Their lyrics make them seem like pissed off douches but they are down to earth people who would not rather be anywhere else then on tour. Their shows are the most fun of any I've ever been to, and they play the genre because it's what they grew up listening to. If you don't like it, nobody cares go listen ICP or some awful shit. Their message is to keep up in high spirits, and if you don't like where you are in life you should do something about it. completely positive guys, as you can tell if you've listened to the upsides.

Dedricthere (July 10, 2010)

Horrible pussy assness.

burk (May 8, 2010)

oh man do i love to hate on these kinds of bands. sorry

sundowning10 (May 7, 2010)


tpotechnickel (April 11, 2010)

I never post anything, but to call this album or this band lackluster in any way is crazy. If you do not like this band then you have not given them a fair chance and judged them on a preconceived notion of your hatred of pop punk. This band is a new breed and a breathe of fresh air for anyone who loves punk rock. I am talking about music which spoke to a bunch of kids on a real level they could actually understand and relate to. I have heard a lot of garbage since those earlier bands, talking simply about girls or carrying the same candy pop sound for money but this band does not fall into that stereotype. The lyrics are about real life and redemption and the music is beyond infectious. This album is for people that loved pop punk and punk rock but grew up a little bit and still love punk rock. This band has quickly become one of my favorites and I would say The Upsides is my #1 pick for the year. Give it a chance and you might receive a vision and not be so close minded.

thepopeofchili-town (April 1, 2010)

I agree with Blackjaw's original two comments.

badastrojon (April 1, 2010)

I don't listen to pop-punk bands unless the album reviews make clear mention of them sounding like the smoking popes or the descendents.

LooseKanonYankee (April 1, 2010)

These guys played to 40 kids in my garage about a month ago
They absolutely hate the music they make and only want to sell t-shirts

danperrone (March 31, 2010)

not loving this album. the only song i really liked was "dynamite shovel".

if we're talking about bands that sound like these guys...i'll take fireworks over the wonder years any day. that fireworks album is a lot of fun.

Blackjaw_ (March 31, 2010)


I wasn't saying they changed their sound to sell more t-shirts. I know their old stuff was even worse and more trendy. BOTH 'styles' just seem to be tuned to the sound of "cha-ching". Anyway, I don't want to keep hating on this band because there are way worse bands out there. I hadn't planned on making more than the one comment, so now I feel like a bigger dick than I wanted to be about it.

thirtyseconds (March 31, 2010)

Just checked this out. Holy shit. Loving it.

swiftjustice (March 31, 2010)

Love this cd, soooo much better than the older stuff.

Jo_punk_promoter (March 31, 2010)

saying that this band have change their sound to sell more t shirt is totally ridiculous. I love their new cd, more than the older stuff, but when you look at it from an unbiased point of view, the new cd, lyrically and musically wise, is way less trendy than the older stuff. They dropped the synth, which was one of the thing that made their trademark sound, a sound that a lot of bands have. They dropped the cheasy pop punk breakdown and they even made a cd about being positive no matter what happens (remember, this is pop punk, and the kind of pop punk that usually care more about heartbreaks than anything). And after seeing them live, i can assure you that they love what they do, and they do it great.

wearestillalive (March 31, 2010)

@Jelone that's actually really good to know.. I enjoyed their first album already, but this makes them a much more likeable band.

The_braces (March 30, 2010)

I have a few mutual friends who have connections with this band so I went out to their west coast CD release show and was blown away by their live performance. I put the CD in that night and wasn't very into it at first, but once it grew on me I was listening to it nonstop, this band is gonna blow up and I don't think it's a bad thing at all.

Jelone (March 30, 2010)

Blackjaw - For what it's worth, I grew up with the Wonder Years. We were all in emo bands together. TWY came out in reaction to all of the sad sack emo and chest-beating hardcore prevalent in the Lansdale, Pa. music scene for the sake of having fun. It still blows my mind that the biggest band to come out of the area was originally meant as a joke. So, you can hate the songs, but believe me when I say the band digs what they're doing. "Buzz Aldrin" is my jam.

Keystonecore! Quakaz With Attitude! Yeah!

lmnndtlgrph (March 30, 2010)

just when it was almost safe to start telling people you liked pop punk, another crop of shitty bands has to come around and ruin it for the rest of us.

this is music for girls to pillowfight to.

lmnndtlgrph (March 30, 2010)

just when it was almost safe to start telling people you liked pop punk, another crop of shitty bands has to come around and ruin it for the rest of us.

the only excuse for listening to music like this is being a 12 year old girl.

Blackjaw_ (March 30, 2010)

I mean it might be a bit pretentious, but it doesn't matter like pretension usually does because there's no reason to give a shit about one guy's perception of a band, if it's totally off-base or not. Oh, and from my last post... anything like*

Blackjaw_ (March 30, 2010)

It's not pretentious if I'm just a guy making a comment. I would never say anything that in a review. You're right, I am totally assuming all of it, almost out of nowhere. It's just how I feel.

mikexdude (March 30, 2010)

Blackjaw, there are certain ways people can hear "honesty" in music, but I feel your statement is still really pretentious. How can you assume all of that?

telegraphrocks (March 30, 2010)

Ugh... that voice...

defianceohioequalslove (March 30, 2010)

"and your favorite Drive-Thru Records compilation"

... "You'll Never Eat Fast Food Again"

Blackjaw_ (March 30, 2010)


Most bands still like the music they play, and I get the feeling this band doesn't. They just want to sell shit to teenagers. That's their sole objective, whereas for most bands it's a secondary one or the way they keep afloat to accomplish their primary objective of having fun and making music.

mikexdude (March 30, 2010)

I am actually loving this.

R3vengeTherapy (March 30, 2010)

I have a shirt that looks just like that.


inagreendase (March 30, 2010)


No way. This band only became worthwhile after they started taking themselves seriously.

Zephir (March 30, 2010)

I don't think I love anything as much as some people love Morrissey.

mikeblackbox (March 30, 2010)

Saw these guys at Harvest of Hope, and holy shit was their set awesome, got home and listened to the cd... found it kinda lacking, not bad, but not awesome like their live set. point of the story... Would definately see these guys live, don't listen to the cd at all...ever.

brangelina (March 30, 2010)

I've never heard this but any friends of All Or Nothing are friends of mine! Thumbs up!

sailin_on (March 30, 2010)

This album is fantastic. Nuff said

red_eye_inc (March 30, 2010)

This album is lame as hell. The songs are a mess, they tried to shove every trick they could think of into every song but they don't have the chops to pull it off so the little gimmicks have to drive the song instead of help it. And didn't they used to write songs about bat man and zombies and shit? For a cheesy pop-punk band, they started to take themselves way too seriously and they suffer because of it.

thumbs down

paulrulzdood (March 30, 2010)

@Blackjaw_ what band doesn't refine their sound to sell albums and t-shirts? last I checked that's the point of being in a band unless you're just doing it as a hobby. if you want to do it as a career, you need to make money at shows and off merch. that's how it works. all bands have at least some capitalistic motive other than those 50 year olds that get together down the street every couple weeks to jam for fun.

preston (March 30, 2010)

Why did you put the movie poster for Forgetting Sarah Marsahall up there?

NewKid (March 30, 2010)

DIdn't really like any of there early stuff, but this record grew on me and has frequented my ipod pretty often lately. Saw them live at the Pirates Cove in Cleveland too, great show. I think if your reviewing it's become trendy to bash "Hey Thanks," but I enjoy that song. Sounds like NOFX to me.

powerhour (March 30, 2010)

they've definitely tightened up their sound and a lot stronger without the synth...but the lyrics seem whiney to me on this album

Blackjaw_ (March 30, 2010)

"Hate" is a bit too harsh... they just really annoy me. There are definitely way, way worse and more annoying bands out there, but to go around hating Brokencyde is just kind of redundant, everyone knows everyone hates Brokencyde. This band has obviously finely tuned their sound to sell records and t-shirts, and that bothers me.

Blackjaw_ (March 30, 2010)

Ugh, I hate this band.

GriffinK (March 30, 2010)

Can't stand the synth-y crap on their first album but I cannot stop listening to this one.

Cheesetits (March 30, 2010)

Yep, you're right, too whiny for me.

inagreendase (March 30, 2010)

Paraphrasing lyrics from "Trying to Find a Balance."

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