*** Guest Submission – Sam Watson ***
The Modern revival of pop punk is greatly different to how the genre began. Rarely are there the 90’s/early 2000’s hits of happiness and fun with tongue in cheek lyrics from bands such as: Blink 182, Lit, Bowling For Soup and New Found Glory. This revival has been dominated by depressing and melancholy tunes with lyrics about breakups and lost friendships. Admittedly the bands who do this such as; The Story So Far, Knuckle Puck and The Wonder Years do it excellently. However, the scene is becoming increasingly more alternative/ emo/ punk rock. No more is there the songs of summer, goofiness and friendship. Wrexham band Neck Deep have had a repertoire consisting of the angst ridden, sadder pop punk thus far. But their latest album ‘Life’s Not Out To Get You’, marks a reconstruction of their career and style change. This album pays great homage to the pop punk greats of the past, whilst incorporating wonderfully done modern production and the signature Neck Deep style.
Immediately, the shift in tone and significantly improved production is noticeable. The drums sound incredible and powerful, the guitars sound huge and the bass tone is reminiscent of ‘Enema Of The State’ Mark Hoppus. However, the dynamics between instruments sounds is much more considered and polished than the fizzy guitars and sometimes overbearing drums of previous releases. This has made the band a more refined and balanced instrumental quartet. Ben Barlow’s tone and range has improved ridiculous amounts on this album. He no longer sounds like he is straining and reaches notes with ease. Additionally, his vocal lines are exceedingly catchy and almost every chorus is a sing along. Instrumentally, Dani Abasi stands out on this album, old Neck Deep fans will be glad to hear that he has maintained his metalcore influenced style with superb flair. An example of his excellence on this album is his drum fill on ‘Kali Ma’. Overall, the music on this album is superb.
This album is filled with the ingredient that the majority of the modern scene are lacking, fun. The track list brims with energy, catchiness and summer vibes. Almost every song on this album is excellent and that is a great testament to Neck Deep. Songs such as; Kali Ma, Gold Steps, Can’t Kick Up The Roots and Threat Level Midnight could all be pop punk hits that we will remember in many years. ‘This Beach Is For Lovers…’ keeps the Neck Deep formula and executes arguably the strongest hook on the album. ‘I Hope this comes back to haunt you’ is also great.
‘Serpents’ is my personal favourite song on the album. It is definitely the darkest song of the album, and is strongly reminiscent of past songs such as ‘Losing Teeth’. This song uses well thought out guitar parts which cooperate together perfectly, a smooth bass line and excellent drum parts. This being said, the stand out factor of the song is the wonderfully written lyrics. An beautiful line about the effects of being reeled into relationships is used. ‘She picked me up from my decline, Healed my wounds with love and wine, Dosed me up and closed my eyes, A taste of poison’. This is just an expertly written song.
The only songs which I feel were weak on this album, not bad songs, just not up to the standard of the others were ‘Citizens Of Earth and ‘December’. Whilst the opening track Citizens of Earth, pays good tribute to early punk bands, it feels a little bit out of sync with the rest of the album. Similarly, December feels like an attempt at Part Of Me 2.0, however it is extremely clear why a song like this is involved after the huge positive reception A Part Of Me had.
‘Life’s Not Out To Get You’ is a towering testament to punk of decades past and millennial pop culture with modern pop punk techniques and crystal clear production. This record is one of a band revived, and finally well deservedly reaching the top of the scene. Their use of a niche that had gone unoccupied for years, has filled me with hope for the future of pop punk. Neck Deep look like strong torch bearers for the future of the genre.
7/10 – Another solid Pop Punk album from the British invasion leaders.