Many of the bands in the pop-punk scene stylize themselves as people who, for lack of better words, just don’t care. Among these self-proclaimed rebels are Wrexham, UK natives Neck Deep. After the release of two EPs, the young group recently released their first full-length studio album Wishful Thinking. The record reminds me why people are so drawn to the pop-punk style as it incorporates catchy, fast-paced instrumentals and angst-ridden lyrics. Wishful Thinking excels in its catchiness, but also fails to add anything new to the pop-punk scene.
The album opens with the track “Losing Teeth”, which deals with the classic pop-punk theme of growing older and wanting to leave one’s hometown behind: “So it seems the time has come/To pack your bags, close your eyes and run like I did/If you do it first I’ll follow straight behind you/Cuz growing old is a waste of time.” Other than providing relatable lyrics, the song doesn’t do much for me. “Growing Pains” toys with this idea as well, but takes it from a darker perspective as it plays in the suffering one experiences as they grow older. This track starts off a little slow as the same riff is played for quite some time, but it moves on to much catchier instrumentals as it progresses and by the time that the chorus plays, it has won its way to my heart.
It certainly wouldn’t be a pop-punk record if there wasn’t at least one anti-authoritarian track and Neck Deep does not disappoint in that respect. “Zoltar Speaks” is easily the darkest song on the album both lyrically and instrumentally. This track is incredibly fast-paced and critiques those in power from the start:“The wolves don’t lose sleep over the cries of the sheep/They just laugh in their pack as they watch while we bleed.” Wishful Thinking also does not fail to include a good breakup song as “What Did You Expect?” expresses just enough anger and pain to constantly be played on repeat to ease the pain of heartache.
The album comes to a close with two excellent tracks. “Blank Pages” discusses something new but easily relatable to any musician: the process of songwriting. It is something so basic to write about, but is rarely ever a main theme for a song. It provides excellent insight on how the struggle of songwriting leads to thoughts on easier times before fame. But Neck Deep saved the best for last with “Candour”, a hauntingly beautiful emo ballad. While the song excels in the instrumentals, the real beauty is behind the vocals of both Ben Barlow and Laura Whiteside, who previously sang together in “A Part of Me” on the band’s EP Rain in July. Whiteside’s vocals provide an amazing balance to the raw emotion in Barlow’s voice.
Overall, Neck Deep’s Wishful Thinking is successful as a pop-punk record. It does not provide anything new to the scene, but is catchy enough to get by.