Pop punk thrives in The Wonder Years

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First Posted: 5/6/2013

Pop punk’s not dead.

At least, that’s how Dan “Soupy” Campbell feels. Though the genre that rose to airwave dominance in the 1990s on the backs of such MTV-friendly bands as Blink-182, New Found Glory and Sum 41 is no longer the platinum-selling apple of the public eye, it may in fact be stronger now than ever before.

“You have bands like The Wonder Years and The Story So Far and Man Overboard, and even artists outside of that pop punk label like Koji or Allison Weiss, and what you see is that everyone’s playing music with the same honesty and the same passion. It’s developed into this community of people who think the same way,” he said.

Campbell would know. That first band he mentioned, The Wonder Years? That’s his band. As frontman for the Philadelphia-based group, Campbell is one of several artists at the forefront of the burgeoning “Defend Pop Punk” movement. It’s a movement Campbell feels is just a small part in an even bigger shift in music as a whole.

“For a long time, music was lacking a certain depth,” he said. “I think that’s coming back, not just in the underground, but even in the mainstream. Even something like the new Justin Timberlake record has, I think, more depth than you would see in a lot of things you would see at the top of the charts. I think that’s only going to continue to grow.”

The Wonder Years’ latest contribution to that growth comes in the form of “The Greatest Generation,” the band’s fourth full-length album and the third in a thematic trilogy preceded by 2010’s “The Upsides” and 2011’s “Suburbia I’ve Given You All and Now I’m Nothing.”

Set to hit shelves Tuesday, May 14 (the same day the band will visit the Gallery of Sound on Mundy Street in Wilkes-Barre for a special in-store acoustic performance and autograph signing), Campbell describes “The Greatest Generation” not only as The Wonder Year’s strongest work to date, but also his most personal.

For those familiar with Campbell’s confessional brand of heartfelt lyricism, that’s certainly saying something.

“’The Upsides’ was about the internal struggles of growing up, the battles you fight with yourself in your own head. ‘Suburbia’ was more about the external struggle of trying to find your place in the world. ‘The Greatest Generation’ came from the realization that I need to stop focusing on all these battles and start focusing on what I was able to learn from, what I could take from them and how that knowledge is going to impact me in the future,” he explained.

“It’s time to stop making excuses about how I’m anxious or depressed or in the wrong place in the world and start thinking about how I can be greater than I am.”

Campbell credits the already heavily changed – and still changing – face of the music industry for leading to what he perceives as a renewed interest in the more earnest, emotionally resonant outlook that is The Wonder Years’ bread and butter: “You can’t just s—t out a song and have everyone like it anymore.” It’s also the impetus behind the breakneck promotional blitz the band is launching itself into in support of “The Greatest Generation.”

In the days leading up to the album’ release, The Wonder Years will play four full concerts in locations as far apart as Philadelphia, New York, Chicago and Anaheim, all in the span of 24 hours. Follow that with six different in-store events across the country (including the aforementioned Gallery of Sound date) and several tours (including a main stage slot on this year’s Vans Warped Tour), and what results, Campbell said, is basically a band rocking out at full-tilt boogie from now through August, with almost no R&R in between.

“In 2013, music has become a commodity, you know? It’s free on the Internet. Even if you do quote-unquote ‘pay’ for it, if you pay, like, $10 a month for Spotify, you can listen to pretty much anything ever. It’s a whole different world. People look at music like it’s water,” he pointed out.

“You need to do more to make it worth it to people. We wanted to make sure that our release week especially went above and beyond what we’ve ever done before, and above and beyond what we’ve seen other bands do… We want to find ways for our fans to be involved in it on a lot of different levels.”