There is absolutely no denying at this point that NECK DEEP are the biggest pop-punk band to ever emerge from the UK. Since forming in 2012 the bands popularity has grown with every release. They’ve even overtaken most of their American peers at this point. The Peace and the Panic marks their third studio album and sees them looking to cement their position as one of the biggest bands in modern pop-punk.
Straight away it has to be said that this album is highly unlikely to change people’s opinion on NECK DEEP. Their fans will almost definitely love the direction they’ve taken on this album whilst people who don’t like them will find nothing new that appeals here. Within seconds it’s clear NECK DEEP know exactly how to craft a light and breezy pop-punk album. The sound of this album is so easy on the ears whilst just having enough edge to still be considered pop-punk. Every guitar line is bouncy and all the vocal melodies are simple. This is exactly the kind of pop-punk that would not sound out of place on daytime radio. Their ability to craft a catchy chorus is really quite admirable.
This all might sound quite positive, however it also represents a large number of the problems with the album. As mentioned the melodies on the album are all very simple and catchy, but in such a mind numbing way. The songs all have such a basic sound that they might as well be nursery rhymes. With the closing tracks chorus is based entirely around the “Rain, rain, go away” nursery rhyme. Things get very repetitive quickly. It’s made worse by Ben Barlow constantly dragging out every other word. It just feels like he constantly had to stretch out words in order to make his lyrics fit the music. Now this isn’t a problem exclusive to NECK DEEP as it such an overdone trope of modern pop-punk. But it really starts to grate here, especially when combined with the dodgy fake American accent.
Another problem with the sound of the album is the moments where lyrically they try to make things a little darker and more mature. When the songs sound so pleasant, it’s so hard to take their attempts at getting political seriously. The only time they come close to getting this right is on Don’t Wait which also features the album’s standout moment as Sam Carter from ARCHITECTS takes over for a brilliant guest slot. Still even this song feels like a token attempt to come across heavier.
The one moment where the more serious tone works is on acoustic ballad Wish You Were Here. Clearly written about the personal tragedy Ben faced during the year leading up to this album. It is by far the most genuine moment on the album. Whilst every pop-punk band feels like they have to include an acoustic ballad now, this certainly doesn’t feel shoehorned in. 19 Seventy Sumthin’ also covers this topic of tragedy but sticks more to the albums bouncy pop-punk style.
Even with those more genuine moments, the entire album just feels like a checklist of everything a modern fan could want. There’s nothing wrong with really trying to please fans but the album just ends up feeling hollow. There is very little on here that is terrible, the childrens choir on Where Do We Go When We Go being the only really awful moment. The album just ends up feeling so disposable.
NECK DEEP are going to get even bigger off the back of this album. They’ve sanded down the rougher edges a bit so they’ll be more appealing to those outside of rock music. But it still has enough of their core sound that fans will lap up. These fans will look past all the flaws but for those who don’t already adore NECK DEEP or are looking for something more interesting, this album will not appeal in the slightest.
The Peace and the Panic is out now via Hopeless Records.
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