Maybe you also think of the Oneders, that fictitious band from the from the fictitious music documentary That Thing You Do! when you read the band name The Wonsers. However, there is no relation to that Tom Hanks movie when it comes to this Minneapolis, Minnesota act. No, this duo, which was originally formed in 1992, is comprised of two brothers, Peter, and John Van Dyke. The group name comes from the siblings’ mother’s maiden name, actually. If the act’s name doesn’t give you power-pop associations, perhaps the group’s music will. You Never Knew Me When I Was Young v2.0 is a re-release of the act’s EP, which also features a live version of the song “Mess,” which was recorded at the Turf Club back in 1998. The result is a small set of extremely passionate rock & roll.
Although the sound of these songs is a blast from the ‘90s past, they’re a blast well worth remembering. The ‘90s brought us both alternative guitar rock and grunge. Guitar was king then. Yes, synth pop was also blooming like a colorful garden, but many dudes much preferred the sound of an aggressively strummed electric guitar. And there is plenty of aggressively strummed electric guitar throughout this release. Its title comes from the song “Mess,” which is included both from the studio, and
from the stage. Its lyric sounds a bit like an angry son’s rant at his unloving father, but this may also be reading too much into these words.
Like everything else on this project, though, these songs are sung with a Husker Du/Soul Asylum-like intensity. Back then, it was cool to wear your heart right out there on your sleeve. It was emo before emo became its own genre.
All of these tracks have one word titles, except for the opener, “Skyline Bridge.” What follows is “Flowers,” “Mess,” “Montana,” “Nobody,” and the live reprise of “Mess.” Why create a wordy song title when one simple word suffices? So, seems to be The Wonsers’ attitude about naming conventions.
It’s easy to fall into appreciating some of the more nostalgic elements contained on this release. Many of us that cut our teeth on ‘90s music sure miss those good old days. Pop music today is all well and good, but there are good reasons why Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl is such a hero. He’s a guy that rocks a guitar and screams/shouts/sings his band’s songs. He came out of the grunge scene and is keeping good old rock & roll alive and well for old-timers and kids, alike. The Wonsers’ are re-releasing music for these same kids and old-timers. One called “Nobody” includes a section where the music bounces back and forth between guitar chords and bass notes. Nothing fancy, it’s true, but certainly tried and true.
You won’t hear music that was ‘ahead of its time’ on this EP. Instead, you will take in a whole lot of sounds that were most certainly of their time. Maybe you never knew The Wonsers when they were young. Consider this your second chance. Just don’t miss them this time.