Every band has a defining album; one that truly defines who they are as a band. For Nirvana, it was Nevermind, for Green Day it was American Idiot (or Dookie, I can’t decide between the two), and for the Red Hot Chili Peppers it was Californication. The album may not be the critical favourite or the fan favourite, but it is remembered by music fans for years. This feels like one of those albums.
Following up 2015’s incredibly highly rated Life’s Not Out To Get You is not an easy task. For example, Rock Sound called it ‘the best UK pop-punk album of all time’. I feel like there was a touch of hyperbole in that statement, but even so, that’s high praise from one of the UK’s most trusted music publications. Not only this, but they went on several successful tours on the back of it, becoming one of the most talked about bands not just in UK pop-punk, but pop-punk all around the world. From there, they could coast on the success of that album and release a similar-sounding record that would please all of their fans, or they could push themselves even further than they’ve gone before. Obviously, they went for the latter.
A great example of this further experimentation is the wonderful ‘In Bloom’, leaving behind the jagged guitar riffs of the previous album for atmospheric strummed guitars and a catchy chorus. If it’s those guitars you want though, you won’t be disappointed. Singles ‘Motion Sickness’ and ‘Happy Judgement Day’ are both classic Neck Deep at their best. But if it’s something new you want, ‘Don’t Wait’ won’t disappoint. Featuring Sam Carter from metalcore giants Architects, this is maybe the most intense song on the album, with Ben Barlow’s melodic vocals and Carter’s screams blending perfectly. A special mention should go out the songwriting to ‘Nineteen Seventy Sumthin”; the song literally brought a tear to my eye.
Will this album be a fan favourite? Maybe, maybe not. I’ve seen a range of fans voicing their displeasure in the new direction, particularly with ‘In Bloom’, but I feel like half the fans will love it, and half will warm to it over time. This seems like an album that people will look back on and think ‘Wow, that was good! I can’t believe I didn’t like it at the time!’. As for my opinion, I can’t pick a fault with the album. This is a modern pop-punk masterpiece that really shows Neck Deep at their best, in terms of lyrics, production, and of course, the music itself. I can’t wait to see what Neck Deep come up with next, but for the next few years, we have The Peace And The Panic, and I couldn’t be happier.
Best songs: Nineteen Seventy Sumthin’, In Bloom