It's weird to think that emo-pop's boyish band the Wonder Years are 10 years old already. It feels like yesterday that the Lansdale-to-Philly punk transplants got started, with their raging-hormone harmonies, crisp, hyper riffs, and wise, storytelling front man (Dan "Soupy" Campbell), whose volume knob is happily stuck on whisper-to-a-scream mode.
Yet, there they were at Union Transfer, these self-described kings of "Keystone State Dude Core," selling out three anniversary shows, each night chronicling one of its classic albums. Saturday found TWY attacking Suburbia, I've Given You All And Now I'm Nothing. On Sunday, it was The Greatest Generation.
On Friday, however, the band took on 2010's The Upsides, a smart, spunky album so loaded with Philly references and titles ("Logan Circle," "Melrose Diner," "Washington Square Park") you could pinpoint the day Campbell moved into an apartment above a florist shop at Broad and Porter.
The Upsides is 12 tunes long, which, played at TWY's fiery pace, lasted only about 50 minutes. So Campbell & Co. ran through a longer second set of witty, raw faves such as "Buzz Aldrin: The Poster Boy for Second Place" and a caustic, hummable "You're Not Salinger. Get Over It."
That Upsides set, though, was a revelation, a hard-core diary of a time when the young band wrestled with life after college, including the struggles of making music, the quest for success, and the choice between music and getting "real" jobs. Lodging hassles ("Hostels & Brothels"), humorous but soul-rotting inconveniences ("New Years with Carl Weathers"), nasty rural townies ("Dynamite Shovel") - these moments sounded as though they were jotted down hurriedly as stone-cold poetry to be spat out to fast, rhythmic backing. Power-drummer Mike Kennedy could be the next Keith Moon, and melodic bassist Josh Martin the next Paul McCartney; these guys are TWY's secret weapons.
TWY can play softly and subtly, as when Campbell strummed a ukulele through the first half of "Hey Thanks." The melody of "It's Never Sunny in South Philadelphia" sounded like "All the Young Dudes," only more frenetic. "All My Friends Are in Bar Bands" approached hair metal with its anthemic roar.
Campbell's recollection about the "Melrose Diner" of his youth?: "It kind of sucks."