In 2009, Dan Campbell of Philadelphia pop-punk flag-bearers The Wonder Years was on his last legs. So were the rest of his band. They were originally going to write an album about how hopeless they felt, to get those feelings off their chests. Somewhere along the way, the idea of writing a more positive album formed, and The Upsides was released in January of 2010. It was a burst of positivity which railed against the bleak outlook Campbell and his band had developed. The crucial line of "I'm not sad anymore" may have seemed like a victory speech at the time, but it turned out to be more of a battle cry, because Campbell's problems still had to be fought against tooth and nail. Despite the positive messages that the band's fans took to heart, he described himself as 'a fucked-up kid' rather than a self-help book on that album's follow-up. Suburbia: I've Given You All and Now I'm Nothing, an album that turned the band's focus on the wider world - but there were still internal battles that needed to be won. 'Soupy', as he's affectionately known (because his last name is Campbell, get it?) needed to overcome the depression and anxiety that held him back. So all 6 members of the Wonder Years shut themselves away in an apartment above an abandoned sandwich shop and wrote The Greatest Generation.

Soupy's lyrics have always been personal, but the level of candour he expresses throughout the album is hard-hitting and emotionally raw. "I know how it seems when I'm always staring off into nothing / I'm lost in my head again / I'm sorry I don't laugh at the right times" - on opener 'There, There', his wings are clipped; he's awkward and nervous; he would appear to be even more fragile than before. He's always sung from the heart, but his lyrics on the band's fourth album are painfully intimate. He's had to up his game, both as a lyricist and singer (for a good example of the latter, there's the falsetto part on 'Teenage Parents') - and so too have his band. With the exception of the acoustic 'Madelyn', the mid-tempo opener and the huge-sounding album centrepiece 'The Devil in my Bloodstream', The Greatest Generation is fast, loud and full-on, and arguably no more so than on 'An American Religion (FSF)', a song on which Soupy directly addresses the issue of fame: "I know a lot of talented kids who got lost in painkillers and turned into nothing / Sometimes, I can still feel it pulling, but I just can't let that happen."x By his own admission, he's still the same that he's always been, but such a phrase can have negative connotations as well.

There's an acute sense of feeling stuck on 'Passing Through A Screen Door', in which he reflects on the people he graduated with; they all have kids, wives, people who care if they come home at night. 'Jesus Christ, "I'm 26... did I fuck up?" There's plenty of that sort of soul-searching on The Greatest Generation - it's quite a heavy record, on an emotional level, with Soupy recounting the time the band had a tour to do whilst his grandfather was in the hospital on 'Dismantling Summer' - the weightiness of the dilemma is summed up in the song's bridge: "If I'm in an airport, and you're in a hospital bed, well, then, what kind of man does that make me?" As the album goes on, his emotional state worsens, leaving him on the edge of a breakdown in 'A Raindance in Traffic' ("It feels like 1929 and I'm on the verge of a great collapse today") while bluntly addressing his lack of religious beliefs in 'Madelyn' doesn't effect him at all: "I don't think there's a God, I don't think there's someone coming to save me - and I don't think that's the worst news of the day."

There's plenty of bad news and loaded imagery running through the album - the five main images of pill bottles, devils, bombs, birds and ghosts appear time and again throughout the album's 13 tracks - but then again, The Wonder Years have always been about the light at the end of the tunnel; they also know how to close their albums in style, and 'I Just Want to Sell Out My Funeral' is perhaps the best song they've written to date, a seven-and-a-half minute epic in which Soupy finally comes to terms with himself: "I'll blame the way that I was brought up or the flaws that I was born with or the mistakes that I've made - they're all just fucking excuses." In a novel way of summing up the album, the band run through each of the album's previous 12 tracks, key parts given new context as part of the album closer as it builds to a tumultuous finale, its final lines bringing the curtain down on an arc of the band that has spanned three albums and four years. "There's no triumph waiting. There's no sunset to ride off in. We all want to be great men and there's nothing romantic about it. I just want to know that I did all I could with what I was given." In a number of ways, he and the rest of the band have done exactly that. The emotional depth of their latest album makes for uneasy listening, but it's an impressive listen nonetheless, showing how far the band have come since the days of The Upsides. The war inside Soupy's head would appear to be over, and the final blow has been struck with astonishing force. The Wonder Years sound like the best band they could be; for an album born out of so much internal suffering, it certainly sounds like a triumph.