Neck Deep – ‘The Peace And The Panic’ (Hopeless Records) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Jonni D   
Thursday, 31 August 2017 04:00

neckdeep-peacepanicSo, let’s be frank; the UK has had a pretty pathetic history when it comes to the pop-punk genre.  That’s why when Neck Deep dropped their 2014 album, ‘Wishful Thinking’, it caused many to stop and take notice.  While their debut was a solid but relatively naïve effort, Neck Deep’s sophomore release, ‘Life’s Not Out To Get You’, dropped one year later and quickly cemented the band as one of the strongest acts in the modern pop-punk scene, American or otherwise.  It would be foolish to say that Neck Deep aren’t cognizant of their rising status, as ‘The Peace And The Panic’ finds the band taking some big strides into a much more commercially viable sound, while still keeping at least a couple of toes dipped in the pop-punk paddling pool.

 

On first listen, songs like ‘Motion Sickness’, ‘Happy Judgement Day’ and ‘The Grand Delusion’ sound like they could have easily sat with the tracks on this album’s predecessor.  However, a closer inspection will show that these songs have a much bigger, rounded out sound when compared to ‘Life’s Not Out To Get You’; more in the vein of New Found Glory’s buoyant anthems, than say the spikiness of The Story So Far.  It’s a subtle shift in sound, but it’s an early indication of what’s to come later in the album.  The melodic hooks are still present in abundance though, sure to please any existing fan and ease them gently into a rather different latter half of the album.

 

 

The jangling, indie-inspired guitars of ‘Parachute’ marks the first significant departure from Neck Deep’s established sound.  Evoking the jaunty staccato of Sixpence None The Richer’s ‘Kiss Me’, the song explodes with a mightily infectious chorus, with undeniable mainstream appeal.  Continuing in this style is album highlight, ‘In Bloom’: with its 90’s alt. rock DNA, this song along with ‘Nineteen Seventy Sumthin’, has the same festival-ready ”pints in the air” spirit of early Oasis anthems, filtered through a pop rock production job.  These are not only the best crafted songs on the record, but also the band’s best gamble at attempting to make a dent in the world of mainstream pop and rock radio.  The potential for crossover success is quite simply massive.  The obligatory pop-punk ballad requirement is fulfilled by ‘Wish You Were Here’, which essentially sounds like a more mature version of ‘December’ from the previous album.

 

However, ‘The Peace And The Panic’ is not exempt from a few more questionable inclusions.  ‘Don’t Wait’ is, for the most part, a decent blast of high octane melodic punk, before the screamed vocals of Sam Carter from Architects kick in.  While Sam’s contribution is well executed, the trope of the harsh vocalist guest spot has been done to death in pop-punk, and so it’s a little disheartening to see Neck Deep playing by the scene’s rulebook so rigidly.  Also, the album closer, ‘Where Do We Go When We Go’ is far too saccharine for its own good, thanks to the use of a children’s choir and nursery rhyme-style lyrics. 

 

 

If you’ve been put off by Neck Deep in anyway before, then you’re unlikely to be swayed by ‘The Peace And The Panic.’  Ben Barlow still sings with a pseudo-American twang, (albeit with a bit more of his own personality this time around), and their melodies are so sugary there should be a diabetic warning on the album sleeve.  Regardless, as it stands Neck Deep is still one the strongest contemporary bands in pop-punk and the songwriting on this release is a testament to their proficiency.  With the expansion of their sound, it seems inevitable that they are going to reach a far wider mainstream audience who have been unfamiliar with their previous output.  These Welsh lads have already come pretty far in just a few years, but by the sounds of it, album number three is going to open a lot of doors for Neck Deep.

 

‘The Peace And The Panic’ is out now.

  

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Neck Deep tour poster