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Pop punk is a strained genre and it has many acts under its umbrella. But, there’s always a shiny gem, a diamond in the rough pushing through for glory. That band is Neck Deep, an act raising hairs with their brand of loud, unapologetic, emotive, sneers. Led by vocalist Ben Barlow, they add a sense of intelligence to a scene which has somewhat faltered over the years. This stems from lacklustre releases and a bloated formula, sounds which imitate, and that’s not good for a genre that should be celebrated for its glittering past.
But there’s something new, something original about Welsh frontrunners Neck Deep. They seem grounded and honest, their music is littered with sophisticated lyrics, lines of torment and despair, words that draw you in and leave you pondering over your state of mind. And Ben Barlow sings with thrust and rage on the band's new record The Peace and the Panic, trying to find clarity in such a hazy, crumbling world.
The Peace and the Panic follows on from 2015’s Life's Not Out to Get You. That record solidified Neck Deep’s prominence as major players in the pop punk world, and it was an album filled with emotional twists and turns, raw lyrics, and powerful vocal and guitar work. As a band, they hit their stride, masterfully constructing songs which dug profoundly into the pop punk bloodline.
And now, they’re fearlessly putting out tracks which manage to create a storm, a feasible source of entertainment. They’ve risen to the challenge and put out something worthwhile without shredding their identity. With The Peace and the Panic, they’ve also monumentally torn up the rule book, adding a political slant too, as well as pushing a genre which is full of acts trying to strive for success, but becoming undone at the final hurdle.
"Motion Sickness" starts proceedings. Barlow sings with a committed range and describes oblivion. He conveys his fears about a derailing planet. The structure and instrumentals fit perfectly, intertwining with Barlow’s heightened bellows. "The Grand Delusion" sticks to a formula Neck Deep has perfected. The powerful riff is a contrasting beat to Barlow’s vocals. His mind seems corroded, he feels claustrophobic in his own skin, damaged by a battering force of regret. "Wish You Were Here" is an acoustic number, not overly polished, but raw and punchy. Barlow falls into the song; his passion is unparalleled here. The stripped back approach is gratifying.
Neck Deep is bright. They’re truly on form on The Peace and the Panic, offering shuddering songs which truly take the pop punk genre up a notch.