It may not be their best album but The Peace and The Panic is still a significant step forward for the Welsh pop punk upstarts.
Neck Deep are a pop-punk band thoroughly bred for the 21st century, they’re the definitive genre band of the current era in more ways than just their music. They dab seriously in their videos, they pretty much all have the same slicked back hairstyle, they all wear Thrasher clothing as well as snapbacks and sunglasses regardless of whether or not it’s sunny, they’re the guys in the heart of the party getting drunk and attracting all eyes to themselves. If there’s anything more quintessentially 2017 then I’m yet to see it. But whilst the Wrexham five-piece may exhibit the millennial look and behaviour, they’ve garnered a sizeable and passionate fanbase through their devotion to their American influenced style of pop-punk, combining huge infectious choruses with snappy, enjoyable riffs and energy. Their first two albums, 2014’s Wishful Thinking and 2015’s Life’s Not Out To Get You, announced them to the world, with the latter catapulting them into mainstream consciousness. Third album The Peace And The Panic is many things for the band; a solid addition to their catalogue, a sign of their intention to firmly grasp their position in the mainstream, an ultimately a step into maturity.
Opening track ‘Motion Sickness’, one of four previously released singles, is irrefutably the album’s strongest track. Combining some heavier guitar work and the band’s trademark energy, it kicks the album off in high-octane style with an emphatic chorus. ‘Happy Judgement Day’ and ‘Where Do We Go When We Go’, the first two songs released from the album earlier this year, are perhaps the two best examples of the clashing of eras for Neck Deep. Whilst the latter is the stronger and more consistent of the two tracks, both exemplify the bands initial sound in their ambitious choruses and rather simplistic songwriting style, but they butt heads with the more radio-friendly rock sound, as a band promoted by the likes of BBC Radio 1 then it’s only to be expected that the band would go this way. They’re both enjoyable tracks but the production and obvious intention holds the former in particular back from being a standout in their discography.
Removed from its rather cringe-worthy video, ‘In Bloom’ is a stronger track. Taking a more measured and downbeat approach, clearly influenced by the current emo revival across the pond, it’s a more mature step from the band, despite the questionable lyrics of verse two, with singer Ben Barlow referring to himself as “such a little shit” (such punk, much edginess, wow), the lyrics on the whole are more mature and show clear progression from the band. ‘Don’t Wait’, featuring Sam Carter of Architects, is an obvious contender as the album’s heaviest track and the band up their game accordingly to match metalcore vocalist Carter; less edginess and more heaviness, this is what works for the band. This mature streak continues on with ‘Wish You Were Here’. Several of the band’s strongest tracks from their back catalogue are softer, more acoustic based pieces such as ‘A Part of Me’, ‘Candour’ and ‘December’ which all place as fan favourites, ‘Wish You Were Here’ could be seen as a clichéd track but it works for the band. As The Peace and The Panic comes to a close, ‘Heavy Lies’ recalls their previous work perhaps more than most songs on the album, rivalling ‘Motion Sickness’ as the most typically Neck Deep-like track on the album in an among the more radio rock friendly direction.
Overall, Neck Deep pull through. What could have been an album plagued with watered down production and a mainstream pandering direction turns out to be a very strong addition to the Welsh lads’ discography. The Peace and The Panic may not be the instant classic that Life’s Not Out to Get You was, but in taking clear influence from the likes of Blink-182 and Bleed American, Neck Deep take some significant steps towards maturity and ultimately conquering the mainstream, it’s a given at this point.
The Peace and The Panic is available now via Hopeless Records.