In the pop-punk sphere, The Wonder Years aren’t your stereotypical band. So when it comes to releasing a set of acoustic cuts, the Philadelphia group haven’t gone down the expected route. While ‘Burst & Decay’ might be described as “An Acoustic EP” by the band, this seven-track offering goes beyond the straightforward, stripped-back format.
Throughout their career, vocalist Dan Campbell has written a wealth of songs that are carried with substance, and as seen on this EP, with flexibility. ‘A Song For Ernest Hemingway’ starts things off in a tender fashion with Campbell’s hushed vocals, plucky guitars and organ keys subtly leading the way to a full band finale. It’s a warm, gentle opener that ideally sets the tone.
The Wonder Years’ songs have always had an emotional core, and on ‘Burst & Decay’, it’s brought to the forefront. ‘There, There’ is served up as a soothing, cathartic number with Laura Stevenson on board for a sweet guest spot. Hidden ‘…Surburbia’ gem, ‘Coffee Eyes’, has been pulled apart and put back together with twinkling acoustics and textured drums. While strings add a rich finish.
A hat-trick of fan favourites follows, all with notable traits. ‘Cardinals’ is weighed down by its heart-wrenching lyricism yet has you singing along with complete passion by the end. ‘Don’t Let Me Cave In’ has been reimagined as a calm, almost jazz-like song with Nick Steinborn’s keys becoming a focal point. ‘Dismantling Summer’ retains its stomping tempo and is as close as TWY get to providing a straight up acoustic version of the original.
Finally, ‘You In January’ offers one last heart-wrenching moment, as the sextet along with Stevenson, turn the song into a rose-tinted ballad. The piano-dominated closer ties things up on a gentle note.
‘Burst & Decay’ isn’t going to win over new fans, but for longtime admirers, it ideally fills a void while offering a new perspective of old favourites.
‘Burst & Decay (An Acoustic EP)’ by The Wonder Years is out now on Loneliest Place On Earth / Hopeless Records.
Words by Sêan Reid (@SeanReid86)