Published On: Wed, Jan 24th, 2024

Neck Deep review: Self-titled reinvention is the Win of the Century | Music | Entertainment

Punk is long dead. From its ashes rose pop-punk, the fast-paced bubblegum chic version of the original genre’s mantra. Sure, Blink-182 pioneered and perfected this outlook in the early oughts, but this current new wave of pop-punk music is being pioneered by Neck Deep.

While the band still feels relatively new, the Wrexham, Wales outfit is somewhat stalwart in the music industry, having first hit the scene in 2012 with their EP Rain In July.

This month, the Ben Barlow-fronted band dropped their fifth studio album, Neck Deep (a self-titled record). This work follows All Distortions Are Intentional from 2020, a covid-baby album that steadily grew in popularity while the band were locked indoors.

As a result, self-titled is a reinvention of Neck Deep (hence, maybe, its name). Sometimes political (We Need More Bricks), oftentimes heartening (It Won’t Be Like This Forever), a little haunting (Go Outside!) and always earnest; Neck Deep’s self-titled is a mirror pointed directly at Great Britain—its mental health struggles, tragic government, and turning 30 in a post-covid world.

Through all of this, frontman Ben Barlow’s voice is the best it has ever been. Cutting, melodic, and powerful, contrasting his technique and power to the band’s first album is like night and day. He has improved fantastically.

Likewise, Neck Deep’s musical technicalities as a whole are complex and intriguing. They sometimes get lost between the lyrics and crunchy guitars, but there are a few standout lead guitars present on self-titled that I’m sure will blow fans away live.

Neck Deep’s commitment to their unique and enviable sound throughout the album can sometimes be their downfall, however. Fans of the group will no doubt slot right back into the band’s style with self-titled, but that doesn’t mean it’s all entirely new.

While each and every song has something strong to offer, they are also at risk of getting neatly folded into their back catalogue and forgotten – which, if that were to happen, would be a crying shame. Neck Deep have produced some of their most exciting work on this record (with Moody Weirdo as my personal favourite). Exciting and transparent, it feels as if – once again – Barlow is speaking my own thoughts back to me. Something many artists never really manage to do.

These are songs both pop and punk through and through; emotionally intelligent introspections (Moody Weirdo, again) coated with an aggressive chord progression and a light spring in their step.

So then it is fitting that self-titled came out on the same day as Green Day’s new album Saviors. The punk legends’ record is a fine piece of work but, for me, Neck Deep have replaced Billie Joe Armstrong and co in this specific space of the music industry.

Neck Deep’s poeticisms combined with their relentlessly bright and crunchy chords are a match made in heaven. A line in the sand against scorned love, harsh loss, and the trials & tribulations of life.

Like it or not, Neck Deep are the voice of a generation. Seeing and hearing them progress into maturity in self-titled speaks wonders for their integrity, and raises hopes for what’s to come.

Neck Deep – Neck Deep is out now.

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