The Wunder Years – Pitstops on the Road Less Travelled

The Wunder Years
Pitstops on the Road Less Travelled

A while back, a reader e-mailed me about The Wunder Years. They were the best California punk band going right now, the e-mail basically said. And so I tracked the band down and have been enjoying both this full-length and their previous 7″. And the reader may be right. This is quite likely the best punk band in California, and I’m sure that’s saying a lot.

The Wunder Years play powerful, emotionally charged punk/rock. They hover somewhere between straight punk, post-hardcore emo, and a more straight-forward rock sound, and they blend those styles perfectly. Their sound is loud and brash but also tight and catchy. And even in their more serious songs, the band sounds like they’re having fun, which is really all you can ask.

The entire album seems to fluctuate between the more punk tracks and the less punk, more hardcore meets emo rock style. The punk songs include the furiously catchy and fast-paced “The Hopeless Romantic,” the bass-driven and more serious “Where the Sidewalk Ends,” and “Backstab,” which is driven by some incredible guitar riffs and in-your-face vocals, including the chorus of “15 minutes, 15 minutes of fame.” “Superbowl Sunday” is one of the catchiest songs, and the vocals here are much smoother, working well in this tight yet high-powered track. And “The Electric Shoes,” called “The Wonder Years” on their 7″, starts off quiet and almost ballad-like in a punk-rock way before exploding into one of the heaviest and most driving tracks to finish off the album.

Other songs here are more emotional and powerful in an emo style, like “Go Kid Go,” a kind of Hot Water Music-like powerful, post-hardcore style song, with driving rhythms and vocals that are rough and sung/shouted. “Somewhere in the Middle of the Pacific” is the most melodic track here, mixing acoustic guitars with electric and a power-rock style chorus, and “Full Circle” starts off quiet and mellow, with some cello mixed in, before it takes off in a more hard-rocking, powerful style.

The band throws out a few curve balls as well, like the almost gorgeous “Vacations/Seperations,” when the vocals suddenly get clear and crisp and female backing vocals are added. I love this, especially since it’s the only song on the album in this style. And the band does a cover of the Cars’ “Just What I Needed” done in punk-rock fashion and done quite well.

The Wunder Years sound like a punk band that is refining their sound away from the more simplistic punk sounds into something that mixes styles, and they do it so well on this album. Each of these songs is powerful and intense yet still catchy, making you want to sing along and dance. If this album turned out so well, I can’t wait to hear their next release as they refine their sound even further.