Dear Chester, I only realised a few days ago that it’s nearly been a year …
2017 has proven itself an underwhelming year for pop punk so far. With scene leaders The Story So Far and The Wonder Years taking a back seat to fresh faced scenesters like Trash Boat, Seaway and With Confidence, mapping the future sonic and aesthetic trajectory of the genre has never been more difficult.
Neck Deep were the most charismatic and bubbliest of the post-2010 pop punk bands. 2014’s Wishful Thinking unveiled a band who looked on the bright side of life, whilst paying homage to the era’s worship of grungier guitar tones, Travis Barker inspired drumming and gruff vocal stylings. Enlisting the help of Jeremy McKinnon, 2015’s instantaneous classic, Life’s Not Out To Get You was a bombastic celebration of all things saccharine and summer, playing on the foundations set by overly-name dropped legends without compromising modernity.
The Wonder Years, although musically excellent and emotional resonant, were almost too sad to gain complete recognition from all pop punk kids. The Story So Far shared too many bills with hardcore bands and State Champs were too poppy. Neck Deep seemed to be the perfect lovechild of every band who’d permeated pop punk’s Tumblr phase. Meaningful lyrics—emotional enough to be superimposed on sunset GIFs but not too sad to be alienating—merch that resembled streetwear, and high octane live shows elevated them to undisputed kings of the genre by the end of 2015.
The Peace and The Panic should be their proudest and most glowing moment as defenders of this crown, however, it unfortunately falls short.
A throwback to All Time Low’s 2012 return to form, Don’t Panic, and over-use of key changes and hymn-like chords striking second glances at American Idiot, The Peace and the Panic has suffered a serious case of style over substance.
An over-the-top, sugar coated production voids the band of their personality. It strips any veneer of genuine passion from tracks, usually easy pickings for for sing-a-longs and circle pits. Frontman Ben Barlow’s vocals at times reach levels of extreme whiney-ness, contriving his lyrical sentiments. Lyrics straddle the lines of generic and preachy as the band attempt to make sense of current affairs.
In saying this, The Peace and the Panic does feature some of the band’s most intelligent and catchy songwriting, tight choruses, and explosions of energy that’ll see the tracks become staples in their setlist for years to come.
Motion Sickness takes cues from the A Day To Remember songbook with cement sealed power chords and classic high speed lead lines that’ll keep the heart’s of pop punk faithfuls full with the knowledge that Neck Deep show no shame in flying their flag. Heart-on-your-sleeve balladry finds a comfortable home on the mid-00s throwback In Bloom, featuring trickling piano, strings, and soaring clean guitars. Sam Carter featuring Don’t Wait packs a much needed intensity and Critical Mistake’s rolling flow and snark-drenched chorus would have Alex Gaskarth shaking in his boots.
The Peace and the Panic is, at its core, a solid, catchy and hook laden pop punk album that’ll continue to serve Neck Deep as leaders of an enduring scene. They’ll dominate Warped Tour and headline in their own right for the next two years. However, after releasing a slew of scene-rattling releases and an instant classic, they’ve failed to live up to their own high expectations.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Motion Sickness, The Grand Delusion, In Bloom
STICK THIS NEXT TO: All Time Low, A Day to Remember, New Found Glory