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.
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.
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.
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.