17 Aug

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Review: Neck Deep, Life’s Not Out To Get You

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Growing older often pushes out the things you loved when you were younger, as life gives you less time to devote to these things than you’d like. This site, gathering dust on the shelf of the internet, is a good example of that.

But every now and then something happens to blast away the cobwebs, transporting you back to the simpler days and reminding you that youth is a feeling, not a number.

That most recent reminder is Neck Deep’s new album, Life’s Not Out To Get You, and what a reminder it is.

Talent

I like to brag to anyone who’ll listen that Neck Deep are from my home town of Wrexham, and that I picked up on them way back when their debut EP Rain In July was about to be released.

It’s about slightly more than local colour and celebrity though.

I, like many teenagers, tried to put together various bands, and each attempt was ill-fated. Failure, I reasoned, was always circumstantial. A band playing pop punk, from a sleepy town in Wales could never make a name for itself, I assured myself.

But Neck Deep are proof that talent transcends these kinds of barriers.

It’s really all about pride.

You’ll know the story of the band’s meteoric rise by now: summers on the Warped tour, supporting Blink 182, playing at Wembley – they’ve done it all. And all of this has led to Life’s Not Out To Get you, Neck Deep’s second album.

The album feels like the true realisation of everything they’ve ever wanted to do via previous releases, but never quite achieved.

LNOTGY is nothing short of a pop punk masterwork, entering the canon of the genre alongside the likes of Enema of the State, Take This to Your Grave and New Found Glory’s self-titled. It’s that important.

Step-change

There isn’t a second of the album’s duration that doesn’t represent a step-change for the band.

The hooks are the catchiest the boys have ever written.

Fil Thorpe Evans gets to flex his bass muscles on tracks like Serpents and Rock Bottom, while Lloyd and West’s guitars are tighter and more interesting than they’ve ever been.

Ben’s lyrics and vocals, from sweet harmonies to frenetic yells, have come of age and Dani Abasi’s work behind the kit elevates the whole thing from being a 9/10 album to a 10/10.

And while ND could have completely played it safe by sticking to a perfectly crafted and defined pop punk sound, they’ve actually gone beyond it. Opener Citizens of Earth recalls the likes of Gallows or Sum 41’s harder-sounded sophomore album, Serpents shows shades of Rise Against and elsewhere I’ve caught glimpses of Finch and Senses Fail.

Driving around in the sunshine with the windows down and turning up LNOTGY recalls summers of a decade or so past, when it was New Found Glory’s Sticks and Stones or The Starting Line’s Say It Like You Mean It providing the soundtrack.

As I approach 30 and realise that the I’m almost 10 years senior to the average Neck Deep fan, I’m proud to see pop punk isn’t dead – and that it’s actually in very safe hands.

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30 Jan

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Track by track: Above The Underground, Sonder

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Above the Underground sonder

Chester’s Above The Underground are gearing up to release their debut full-length, Sonder, on February 17. To whet your appetite, here’s frontman Will with a track-by-track tear down of the release…

Track one – Prologue

We wanted the first song on the album to sum up the general mood of the record for the listener without actually being a full song. We like the idea of repeating themes, and the combination of chords and the riff in Prologue sets the first theme of the record which returns at the end of the album in“Reprise”. We really liked the idea of having two songs at either end of the record, kind of like bookends to tie it all together. Originally the ideas for this song were from a bridge in another song that we never ended up using; one day I was messing around on my acoustic and I played it a little slower and it just worked so much better, so we ended up using it. We wanted a lot of ambient noise at the beginning of the album to give off the impression that we were getting ready to start playing, lots of mic noise and background talking. It all came together really well in the studio and I think It sets a precedent for the album which is what we were aiming for, overall I feel it came out really well.

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08 Jan

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Review: Neck Deep, Wishful Thinking

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Wishful Thinking Cover

The UK’s first legitimate and best chance at joining the pop punk big leagues has arrived, and British fans of the genre finally have something to be proud of.

Neck Deep’s Wishful Thinking, out on Hopeless Records, is an album bursting with ideas, youthful energy, angst and ambition. It also proves the band is more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the best the US has to offer.

Influences

The band and I hail from the same town, and though they’re a little younger than myself, it’s clear we all grew up with the similar surroundings, in similar times and with the same pop punk soundtrack that so heavily influences Wishful Thinking.

There are shades of Blink 182 and smatterings of NOFX and Sum 41,  the shadow of early 2000’s Drive Thru Records bands and its later transformation through bands like Senses Fail and Hidden In Plain View. Then there are contemporary parallels to be made with bands like The Wonder Years and The Story So Far.

That’s not to say Neck Deep has sown a patchwork of borrowed material – the band’s own sound is now fully developed to the logical conclusion alluded  to in its first two EP’s Rain In July and A History of Bad Decisions. It’s not all balls-to-the-wall, circle-pit baiting pop punk, as the strings and harmonies on closer Candour prove.

Workhorse

When it is full-pelt pop punk, however, drummer Dani Washington once again proves an absolute workhorse. Bassist Fil Thorpe-Evans is also able to expand his role with more interesting flourishes, while the sterling guitar work from the band’s EP’s continues and benefits from better production and higher production values.

Vocalist Ben Barlow is now truly finding his voice. More aware of his range, still raw when he needs to be and now adding harmonies to enrich his contributions – it’s an improved effort all around.

I’m not sure when the band found time to write Wishful Thinking’s 12 tracks, given the heavy touring and Tumblr workload they’ve taken on over the past year, but they’re clearly bursting with ideas – using unexpected arrangements, themes and ideas throughout the album which almost always work. (There’s a key change in one song that doesn’t quite stick the landing, for me.)

There’s no point me writing a track-by-track when the album is currently streaming on YouTube, suffice to say that stand-out tracks include Zoltar Speaks, Losing Teeth and a reworking of What Did You Expect? from Rain In July.

Proud

If you’re a (UK) pop punk fan, you should really support Neck Deep by checking it out.

It makes this writer incredibly proud to listen to these local lads perform on such a global stage, to an audience they won through hard work and well-written songs. Neck Deep should be proud of themselves, too.

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