Though an overzealous listener might be tempted to describe The Wonder Years’ No Closer To Heaven as a screamo album, in truth the record is so diverse – so thrillingly unique – that it actively defies categorisation. It’s not a complete success, and at times it does feel a little too polished, but on the whole this is a strikingly inventive record, one brave enough to deal with thematic concepts as far reaching as martyrdom, fallen American artists, and the very nature of mortality itself.
The tone is, from the get go, uniquely epic. Album opener Brothers & begins subtly, but ends with a swirl of guitars and the ecstatic voices of a choir, an anthem of the damned that wouldn’t feel out of place scoring scenes from Dante’s Inferno. Indeed, though each of the album’s tracks differs from the next, the songs are united by their incredible scope. I Don’t Like Who I Was Then, for example, is a fairly standard piece of pop-punk made great by its sheer volume and speed, and though the indie-rock indebted strains of You In January are another thing altogether, both songs share a sense of grandiosity, and heft.
That said, a few of the album’s tracks do add up to much less than they should: The Bluest Things On Earth and lead single Cardinals both represent the bands’ work at its most commercial, and suffer slightly from a lack of ambition. They stand out like sore thumbs when compared to the rest of the album, which seems so utterly concerned with taking risks and seeing those risks pay off.
But, such missteps are rare, and barely hinder enjoyment of the album. On the whole, this is a genuinely original work, one concerned with nothing less than the human soul. It’s warm, it’s fierce, it’s harsh, and, perhaps above all else, it’s humane.