Five years ago, Neck Deep was brought to life after vocalist Ben Barlow met guitarist Lloyd Roberts, and ever since the guys have been on the ascend. 2015’s Life’s Not Out To Get You stormed the pop-punk scene with ferocious attitude, creating an army of loyal followers – which is how we ended up with their forthcoming album The Peace and The Panic a few days early.
Earlier this year in May, the band dropped their first two singles from the upcoming album on BBC Radio 1, ‘Where Do We Go When We Go?’ and ‘Happy Judgement Day,’ which both received high praise and almost instantaneously a thousand streams over platforms such as Spotify and YouTube. Their twitter was exploding with excitement for the release of The Peace and The Panic, and with both singles setting the initial tone, Neck Deep was about to drop a banger. Last month, they released ‘Motion Sickness’ which keeps a similar kind of tone, with melodic riffs and similar thematises, referring back to previous release with lyrics “Sat on the kitchen floor all alone talking to a ghost / About where we go when we go / He said, ‘Life is the great unknown’” and ultimately proving the maturity that the band have found during the writing process and production of this album. There’s a huge sense of recollection, but the happy-go-lucky sound of pop-punk hammering in the background, it’s light and catchy. Their latest officially released track, ‘In Bloom’ takes a different route to its predecessors, slowing the music right down. We’ve seen this before with songs such as ‘A Part Of Me’ and ‘December’, but ‘In Bloom’ is really a new kind of sound for Neck Deep and really compliments Barlow’s voice.
Besides the aesthetically pleasing music video, ‘In Bloom’ is emotionally driven, and the passion of the song eventually builds the tempo gradually over the three-and-a-half-minute track. There’s a few songs like this on the album, such as opening track ‘Wish You Were Here,’ and it just proves that there’s more to Neck Deep than the breakup anthems that they’ve handed out with previous albums. It could be because fans are hearing more about the lives behind the music, and the relatability is really coming into play with this album, but it’s obvious that Neck Deep have tuned into a more passionate and emotional side they possess to drive their creativity. There’s some lyrics that are genuinely tear-jerking, such as ‘In Bloom’s “’cause the truth is, you’re the only voice I wanna hear in my head,” or heard in ‘Wish You Were Here’ “cause a picture is all I have to remind me that you’re never coming back.”
They haven’t entirely scrapped the hard-hitting pop-punk anthems though. ‘Heavy Lies’ has everything to get you into it with catchy lyrics, complimented guitar riffs and heavy basslines, the limelight definitely shines on the drums. The attitude and feeling of the song relies heavily on the rhythmic pounding drums and is truly emphasised throughout the song. It’s one of the most important component of the song as it complements the sound of everything else going on around them. It could be the speakers that I’m using, and if that is the case, then I suggest listening to this album on the best quality speakers you can find because it’s beautifully portrayed. It feels as each song has an important instrument though, since the bass during ’19 Seventy Sumthin’’ adds a depth that accomplishes the feeling of nostalgia throughout the storytelling song. It’s also quite poppy, and more body bopping than head banging. The punk element returns during the last quarter of the song, when the initially up-beat subject of the lyrics turns heavy. There was a lot affecting the band during the writing process of the upcoming album, and it breaks through with a lot of the heavy lyrics, but instead of creating a Debbie-downer of an album, it’s as if they’re discussing what’s happening, but remembering that there is still a lot of positivity to look towards.
‘Beautiful Madness’ brings back the fast-paced and loud lyrics back into play. One of the admirable things about Neck Deep is that they’ve created music that literally leeches onto your brain and it’s instantly liked. Their music has the ability to have you screaming the words back as loud as you can, and ‘Beautiful Madness’ really is no exception – apart from the ‘Where Do We Go When We Go’, it’s the first sense of the initial reason why Neck Deep made it. And that’s the anthem-esque, loud hitting music that we first heard. The album has a lot of variety though, and shows a lot of change, even with Barlow’s voice becoming more melodic than straining. I’ve already sung a good few songs at the top of my lungs and haven’t felt that feeling of my throat tightening once, unlike the times I’d pretending I was fronting for ‘A Part Of Me.’ Sixth song, ‘Worth It’ is not only the perfect example for my previous statement, but really shows the development and skill of the guitar, with melodic riffs working in correlation with the rhythm.
But old habits aren’t entirely bad, and as the album moves on to ‘The Grand Delusion’ we can hear the sheer impact of Barlow’s passion can have on a song. It’s another nostalgic moment for the album, almost driving us back to what we might have heard if Neck Deep created a Life’s Not Out To Get You Part 2. Drummer, Danni Washington, has taken the spotlight with this album though, once again adding a great approach of intensity. ‘Parachute’ is similar, reeling in that pop-punk aggression but really emphasises on the drumming for that rhythm. Whilst Neck Deep have a knack for creating those catchy tunes, ‘Parachute’ does it differently – it’s not catchy because of the amount of noise it can make in rhythm, but because it’s somewhat light compared to their heavier melodies. It’s simple, and sometimes simple can be best. At the end of the song, Matt West has no problem showing off his ability to play a solo and while it isn’t at the forefront and being shown off, it’s nice to hear that there’s more to him than the catchy melodies that he’s clearly been working at to create The Peace and The Panic.
Previously featuring Mark Hoppus for their built on version of ‘December’ for Life’s Not Out To Get You, this time around we see the voice of Sam Carter from ARCHITECTS show up for their second to last song ‘Don’t Wait,’ and yes, you guessed it, it’s one of the heavier tracks on the album. What else can you expect, for a song featuring the face of progressive rock band ARCHITECTS? It’s a display that there is a variety to the band, and they can do it really quite well. The sound of Sam Carter’s aggressive vocals doesn’t sound out of place, and it’s really quite interesting to see how they plan to play the song live, but it’s honestly such a good song that it’s easily going to be the one to have the gnarliest mosh pits.
Ending the album with ‘Critical Mistake’, it opens with the sound of a voicemail and brings us back to that pop-punk feeling that the album has overall. Both the guitar and bass are complemented by each other, and if you want to know what the album is going to be like, ‘Critical Mistake’ is probably the song that wraps up the whole thing in one song. It’s a song that promotes finger-clicking, clapping and outrageous dancing to truly enjoy – which isn’t a bad thing! The guys have truly lived up to their name, and building off that momentum that they’ve gained over the last few years of being one of the biggest names in modern pop-punk.