Neck Deep – ‘Neck Deep’

By Katherine Allvey

Neck Deep’s fifth, self-titled album has dropped at exactly the perfect time. In the well intentioned haze of new years resolutions and grim mists of commenting in the dark, it’s a lightning bolt of the fresh and new.

In the last decade, Neck Deep have risen from basements to main stages, accruing millions of fans, but they’ve never been able to step out of the ‘Blink-alike’ mould until now. While, of course, there’s nothing wrong with sounding like Blink 182, and ‘December (Again)’ – their 2016 collaboration with Mark Hoppus – has eight digits worth of Spotify listens, there has always been this sense permeating that the output from the boys of Wrexham were nipping at the heels of the pop-punk greats. Neck Deep’s decision to record this album away from external influences in their own local recording space has led to an incubation of their own identity, and it paid off. While, yes, there will always be a debt to the bands that the Barlow siblings and their mates listened to when growing up in their sound, there’s something distinctively Neck Deep in this new album which is entirely their own. 

Look at early drop ‘Take Me With You’, vocalist Ben Barlow’s plea for abduction by little green men. There’s the charming immaturity in the mild swears and faded, suburban guitar, but there’s also an intensity in the drums that wasn’t present in Neck Deep’s previous albums. ‘They May Not Mean To (But They Do)’ has a lot of Alkaline Trio in the melody, of course, but also an acidic maturity in the complexity of the stereotypical adolescent reflection that elevates it above the average Skiba-influenced pop-punk adventure. They aren’t afraid to swerve between the specific and the wide-reaching either, following ‘They May Not Mean To (But They Do)’s religious rejection with lead single ‘I Won’t Be Like This Forever’. “It’s a tune that has a wide appeal,” explained Barlow. “That song is a real arm round the shoulder to the listener from us, the songwriters. That’s the thing about our band, we can write these fun songs but when we touch on something emotional, it normally works because it tends to be these quite universal emotions that everyone can relate to.” Visions of bouncing festival fields this summer dance before your eyes with each turn of the hopefully pained melody.

There’s a hint, a spark to light the dynamite of a new tone, in ‘We Need More Bricks’. While to date Neck Deep have avoided overly political themes, there’s a touch of the early Green Day cynicism leaking into their tone and it honestly works for them to start taking on a tougher political load. Equally intriguing is how they tackle darker themes with relentless optimism. “Take me back to when I felt like me,” begs Barlow on ‘Go Outside!’, which is simultaneously explicitly about mental health struggles and incredibly coy about mentioning any darkness or suffering. It’s refreshing to hear an exploration of depression that avoids cliche or overt misery. “We just need to be the soundtrack to people’s best and worst times,” Barlow stated recently, and Neck Deep have succeeded, walking the tightrope between avoiding the darkness and being sucked into it. 

If you switch between any track on this album and any older Neck Deep song, you’ll notice that pretty much all of ‘Neck Deep’ is twice as fast as their previous material. This is the signal we’ve been waiting for, the metaphorical revving of their engine as they move from the musical a-roads to the main stage motorway. They’ve left any lingering hesitancy in 2023 and are now boldly stepping into a new era, and this record affirms that they really do deserve their hype.

KATE ALLVEY

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