Welsh pop-punk brilliance Neck Deep are about to drop their fifth studio album- and it is just magic. Self-titled and self-produced, the record truly captures the essence of Neck Deep in all its glory. A 10-track masterpiece of fun, brilliantly written and masterfully produced tracks- it’s Neck Deep in their purest form.
Frontman Ben Barlow said of the record, “It’s unapologetically us. We’re professional songwriters now and we’ve really honed in on what we’re good at – but it’s also about having fun and enjoying writing these tracks. And there are those little sonic signatures in the mix that even I can’t really put my finger on that just make it Neck Deep.” And I couldn’t agree more. In crafting this album, bassist Seb Barlow, guitar virtuosos Matt West and Sam Bowden, and percussion maestro Matt Powles alongside frontman Ben, elevated the concept of ‘doing their own thing’ to new heights. Instead of succumbing to the allure of a roster of eager collaborators and renowned producers clamouring to work with one of rock’s most sought-after acts, the band opted for a return to the roots. They embraced an old-school approach, sidestepping the glittering distractions to write and record in their own warehouse space, a stone’s throw away from their upbringing—keeping it authentic, just like the good old days.
The album kicks off with “Dumbstruck Dumbf**k,” an introspective exploration of self-loathing. A catchy guitar riff and lively drums infuse the track with infectious energy, setting a vibrant tone for the album. It’s a delightful opener, establishing a high standard for what follows. “Sort Yourself Out” maintains this momentum with a brisk tempo from the get-go. A subtle tempo shift and stripped-back instrumentation add effective dynamics, leading to an incredibly catchy chorus. The bridge stands out with witty lyrics from Ben Barlow, culminating in an a cappella chorus that seamlessly builds up to another version of the bridge, a clever musical twist.
“This Is All My Fault” boasts my favourite opening verse, where Barlow’s vocals shine against an intriguing melody. It’s a personal favourite, reminiscent of Life’s Not Out To Get You, but presented in a new and improved light. The momentum continues with the familiar sounds of “We Need More Bricks” and “Heartbreak Of The Century,” both previously released tracks. I vividly recall the first time these tunes graced my ears, instilling in me a deep-seated confidence that this album was destined for perfection. Now, basking in the full album experience, it’s immensely satisfying to see that initial intuition proven absolutely right.
“Go Outside!” introduces a laid-back guitar riff before bursting into the first verse, and ”Take Me With You” injects the album with a pop-punk essential—an alien-inspired commentary on the world’s current state.
“They May Not Mean To (But They Do)” stands out as a personal favourite. The track unfolds with a captivating melody that carries a distinctive new wave undertone. While maintaining a slightly more laid-back demeanour compared to the rest of the album, it expertly sustains a vibrant energy throughout. Centred around the theme of parental influence, the chorus took me by surprise, eliciting genuine laughter with its candid lyrics: “They fuck you up, your parents do. They may not mean to, but they do, they may not mean to, but they do.”
“It Won’t Be Like This Forever,” released in 2023, begins with somber a cappella vocals before building up to a stunning verse. Though tamer compared to the rest, it’s a beautiful song in every way. The album’s conclusion, “Moody Weirdo,” serves as a perfect closer, encapsulating the fun and high-energy vibe of the record with an added touch of epic grandeur. The bridge and the pause before the final chorus stand out as favourite moments, leaving the album on a high-energy note.
What makes this album the crown jewel in Neck Deep’s repertoire is not just its infectious tunes and clever lyrics but the realisation that this is Neck Deep at their very best. The self-production, orchestrated by Seb Barlow, older brother of frontman Ben Barlow, marks a pivotal moment in their career. With each album, they have refined their craft, and this self-titled venture is the culmination of that journey—a relentless cascade of energy and brilliance that asserts Neck Deep’s place at the forefront of contemporary pop-punk. This is not just an album; it’s a milestone, a testament to the enduring legacy of a band that continues to evolve while staying true to its roots.
FIVE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Neck Deep is out this Friday, 19th January.