ARTIST: NECK DEEP

TITLE: THE PEACE AND THE PANIC

LABEL: HOPELESS RECORDS

RATING: 6/10

Wrexham pop-punkers misfire with extravagant third effort…

Neck Deep have always been hailed as the forerunners of British pop-punk, a much sought after alternative to the whiney American brand. Everyone remembers that ball of thunder and pace that was, debut EP, A History of Bad Decisions. Brash, raw and beaming with a sound that was unquestionably theirs, it saw them rise to fame on both sides of the pond. Born out of a torrid year in which two band members lost fathers and a close friend of the band passed away, The Peace and The Panic ponders life itself and, as a result, has found its way towards a more polished and generic sound.

Openers ‘Motion Sickness’ and ‘Happy Judgement Day’ stick to the Neck Deep voice with hints of subtle progressions. Whilst the former is taken straight from the mould of their successful sophomore record; the latter is a saw-toothed, riff laden ode to a heavier, darker sound. ‘Don’t Wait’ has a similar feel to it. Fuelled by the pace of drummer Dani Washington, it is reminiscent of an aggressive pop-punk sound not unlike A Day To Remember. Architect’s frontman Sam Carter’s contribution adds an additional edge although I would question whether his growls really fit with the song.

Sadly, the rest of the record mostly gives way to what I can only term as ‘American pop-punk filler’. Frontman Ben Barlow may claim that this is “very much a Neck Deep record” but I beg to differ. ‘Grand Delusion’, ‘Parachute’ and ‘Critical Mistake’ all sound like songs I’ve heard a thousand times before by a thousand other bands. Don’t get me wrong, this album is full of good songs they just aren’t Neck Deep’s, they don’t have that Neck Deep identity. Wish You Were is certainly redeemable, a slow acoustic symphony that is dedicated to those the band, as a collective, have lost in the last year.

“Ben Barlow may claim that this is ‘very much a Neck Deep record’ but I beg to differ.”

Thankfully third single, and absolute banger, ‘In Bloom’ saves this record. A sultry ballad, full of echoing strings and atmospheric guitars, it evokes thoughts of pastel colours, cut-off jeans and, well, feelings. Not to mention the fact that it is, undoubtedly, Barlows best vocal display to date with a chorus that could blow away most stadium crowds.

All in all The Peace and the Panic is a rather mixed bag. In fact, it is the definition of a mixed bag. Whilst part of it sounds like the next progression of a band secure in their own sound, much of it is akin to a Welshman trying to sing All Time Low. True, Neck Deep have produced some truly brilliant singles on this record but, as a whole, it’s a bit of a disappointment.

WORDS: DOMINIC MOFFITT

Listen to the album here:

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