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The Wonder Years “Cardinal” Review

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Philadelphia Pop-Punks, The Wonder Years, have released the debut single from their highly anticipated follow up to 2013’s “The Greatest Generation”. “Cardinals” off what could be a contender for best Pop Punk album of the year, No Closer To Heaven, continues a series of songs lead singer, Dan Campbell, has dedicated to his late friend Mike Pelone.

Beginning with the b-side, “We Won’t Bury You”, from 2010’s “The Upsides”, Campbell  tells the story of guilt and regret for failing his friend in his time of need. Over the course of the tracks, “We Won’t Bury You”, “You Made Me Want To Be A Saint”, “Cul-De-Sac” and now “Cardinals”, Campbell tells stories of his childhood with Pelone and their reckless abandon of their youth. He speaks fondly of memories he’d give anything to have back. These memories are the signals of his guilt, Campbell remembers the good times to try and counteract his actions in Pelone’s time of need.

“Cardinals” is no different in terms of story-telling. The first chorus speaks of Pelone’s decline in health and his dive into addiction and how Campbell wasn’t there to help, how Campbell was off making “The Upsides” and ignoring the fact that his friend was making a subtle cry for help. The chorus is one of the biggest The Wonder Years have ever produced. It calls to the songwriting Campbell did in his character study, Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties, it’s a pleading to be called back, to go back to a better time, much like Aaron West would do in his trials and tribulations. It’s anthemic like many other choruses the band has created. large instrumentals that wail over ridiculously intricate and precise drumming.

The Wonder Years are no strangers to anthemic choruses, with songs like “Washington Square Park”, “Don’t Let Me Cave In” and “Chaser” under their belts, this falls inline perfectly with their older material all while including a heavier tone and instrumentals. This is easily the heaviest song released by The Wonder Years since their forgotten era of Easycore and the release of “Get Stoked On It!”. With chugging guitars, a great lead part, huge drums and an uncommon inclusion of ¾ and 6/8 time signatures, “Cardinals” sets the tone for the era of songwriting The Wonder Years are about to embark on.

The lyrics from Campbell are heart wrenching, the drumming from Mike Kennedy is astonishingly amazing per usual. The wonderous backup vocals and ever so important rhythm provided by Matt Brasch is like nothing heard before from them and not to mention the leads from Casey Caveliere and Nick Steinborn which add a depth to the track that really brings it together. The ending is most certainly the strongest point of the entire track, coming out of the bridge which is a vocal spotlight for backup vocalist/rhythm guitarist, Matt Brasch, Campbell comes back in with the chorus while Brasch sings the bridge and Steinborn sings Brasch’s part in the chorus. This mesh of vocals creates a melancholy that The Wonder Years have used before, but here it’s different. In this use, all of the different vocal parts are a beautiful melancholy, they portray the melancholy in Campbell’s head and how everything goes on at once. What I like most about this part of the song is the gang vocals that come in and begin to overpower Campbell’s lead vocal part. It sounds like a large chorus of people just singing their heart out, singing away all of their pain and adding to the beautiful melancholy.

I’ve been following The Wonder Years since the release of “Suburbia: I’ve Given You All And Now I’m Nothing”, and this tonal change in their songs excite me. I’ve always been a fan of their heartwrenching ballads and their huge, anthemic choruses, so if they can take those key factors of their music and add a heavier tone, a more brutal approach at their songwriting, I feel many fans will be able to embrace this new song with open arms and expect nothing less from the band in the future.

“Cardinals” is an important song for the band to release as a lead single as it holds a familiar theme all while introducing this new sound they’re trying out. If the rest of “No Closer To Heaven” follows suit with “Cardinals” I feel as though this could quite possibly be The Wonder Years best effort out of any and become what will be their Opus.

With each release, their notoriety in the scene and their popularity just rises ten-fold and if “No Closer To Heaven” is as heavy, melodic, and anthemic as “Cardinals” is, The Wonder Years will no doubtingly rise to the top with album and be remembered for it for the rest of their careers.

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