It's hard to think of a time when Wrexham pop punkers Neck Deep weren't one of the biggest bands in the genre. The truth is however, this by now imaginery concept was a reality not that long ago. The bands debut album Wishful Thinking was released a mere three years ago, making the realisation of just how big Neck Deep are, and how quickly they have got there a staggering one. They've slayed the infamous Warped Tour, worked with both Jeremy McKinnon and Mark Hoppus, won Kerrang! & Alternative Press awards as well as selling over 52,000 tickets on their 2016 headline tour. Make no mistake about it - Neck Deep are hot property.
Sophomore album Life's Not Out To Get You set the tone for the bands undeniable success - its colourful, fluffy rhythms warmed the cockels while vocally Ben Barlow carried a heavy dose of attitude in his youthful outbursts, in short; the album played a gargantuan role in Neck Deeps cannon shot ascension up the musical ladder. Two years later and new record The Peace And The Panic sees the quintet sticking to what they know for the most part, with slight dabbles in growth and expansion.
"Growing up" is an incredibly overused musical cliche when describing the progression of a band, but regardless it reigns true for The Peace And The Panic, especially lyrically. Barlow's writing has become less focused around his questionable hometown or finally getting the girl and instead here discusses death and the after life, the dichotomy of the lyrical exploration of death entrenched in the upbeat tones of pop punk comes with a surprisingly high level of success too, with 'Motion Sickness' and 'Where Do We Go When We Go' sure to put a smile on your face, and a quickening beat in your heart despite their dark contextual tone.
That's not to say that the record is a drab affair though, 'Critical Mistake' and 'Parachute' have all the bounce and pleasantries you'd find in either of Neck Deeps previous releases. The true quality of the record though sits within tracks such as 'In Bloom' and 'The Grand Delusion' the pair feature a dive into more progressive, thought provoking song-writing, and while both lean on the pop side of pop-punk their slowly cheerful tone shines a light on Ben Barlow's vocal talent that you may not previously have known was there. While guitarists Matt West and Sam Bowden remain prevalent throughout the record, everything truly comes to fruition here.
The Peace And The Panic seems to just have everything a fan of pop punk is going to press play on the album and hope to hear, and at times even more so. Add in a guest performance from Architects vocalist Sam Carter on 'Don't Wait' and the incredibly emotive 'Wish You Were Here' which is set to be a staple in the bands setlist going forward - and here you have an album which goes out of its way to give you the goods.
There's an argument to be had that pop-punk is an overly saturated genre, realistically it's hard to dispute. But as with any genre, the highest quality tends to stand out most, and while Neck Deep have been standing out for a while, they've been joined by the likes of State Champs and more recently WSTR and Seaway, until now. The Peace And The Panic takes Neck Deep from being a great band in a whirlpool of artists and makes them arguably THE pop punk band of their generation.
Review by Kristian Pugh