Review Summary: Life's certainly not out to get Neck Deep.Quick disclaimer: I'm writing this review in leiu of receiving an early pre-order copy. Moreover, English is not my first language, so any feedback in regards to spelling, grammar and structuring is greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!
Make no mistake, Life's Not Out To Get You
is quite literally The Empire Strikes Back
of pop punk records. While the band showed promise on their solid debut effort Wishful Thinking
from last year, the record was also the victim of numerous beginner faults -- most notably in how the album would constantly shift from endearing to uninspired songwriting within matter of minutes. That's understandable given that Neck Deep practically became a pop punk powerhouse overnight, skyrocketing themselves to Warped Tour/Wembley Stadium/opening act for Blink-182 fame within a handful of years. Somehow the band had their timing down to a surgical precision, allowing Neck Deep to cement themselves as the UK's most quintessential pop punk act. Life's Not Out To Get You
, however doesn't thrive on timing, gimmicks or just sheer "luck" -- it thrives on the fact that the band has honed their sound and that they over the course of 12 rousing, by-god catchy tracks prove that they're no sophomore slumps. Thunderous hooks are juxtaposed against slashing guitar riffs and furious drumming, and frontman Ben Barlow's sterile sneer from last year lies dormant in favor of a much more exuberant vocal style found here. Simply put, LNOTGY
adheres to an old-school style of pop punk that hasn't been explored by the band's peers, resulting in a hook-binge fest that will stick to the roof of your mouth and dupe you into coming back time and time again.
The heart and center of this album is the non-stop energy. Every track here has a level of immediacy that keeps the momentum going, and when the band dials it up to 11 and belts out top-tier, massive choruses such as the ones found on "Gold Steps" and "Kali Ma", it's impossible to shy away. Much of this can be attributed to the stupendous guitar work courtesy of Lloyd Roberts and Matt West, who manage to whip out heaps of feverishly catchy riffs that sound like they were yanked straight out of Sum-41 or New Found Glory's heydays. Heck, lead single "Can't Kick Up The Roots" and the oh-so bittersweet "The Beach Is For Lovers (Not Lonely Losers)" literally sounds like the kind of stuff that Blink-182 has been trying to write for the last decade, showing that the Welsh quintet aren't afraid to draw influences from the genre's paragons. The band also maintains the darker edge hinted at in Wishful Thinking
, as the track "Serpents" pummels the listener with thumping drums and aggressive riffage. The lyrical content, while definitely juvenile, is still befitting the album, as every songs deals with overcoming defeat and trying to stay positive amidst the pitfalls of growing up. It feels trite and trying at times, especially when the "f-bombs" start pouring in, but given that these young welshers are still succumbing to the trials and tribulations of adulthood and sing them with such conviction, it remains wholly appropriate.
It should also be noted that LNOTGY
features a suprising amount of variety. Opener "Citizens of Earth" is a rap-fueled jam that's highly evocative of All Killer, No Filler
-era alá Sum-41, something that the band accomplishes with at least moderate success. Elsewhere, tracks "Lime St." and "I Hope This Comes Back To Haunt You" are more laidback yet thoroughly hooky jams that prove that Neck Deep can still pen a good sing-along without resorting to a blistering pace. Then there's the aforementioned "Kali Ma" (which even includes a fantastic guest spot by producer & A Day To Remember frontman Jeremy McKinnon) and the cleverly titled "Smooth Seas Don't Make Good Sailors" which are frenzied pop punk bangers that invite participation. Lastly is the acoustic tearjerker "December" which finally retires the god-awful recording of "A Part of Me" off the band's debut EP. There's a little something here for everyone who's ever had a passing interest in pop punk, further widening its undeniable appeal.
The reason why LNOTGY
is such a mammoth success is the fact that it takes the core essentials of what made pop punk so endearing in the first place and puts a glistening, modern sheen on it. Interspersed throughout this album are moments that vividly recall the humble roots of this once ill-fated genre, and I think the reason that it's already sparked sentimental value in me is due to the fact that it captures the magic that I felt when I first received a physical copy of Green Day's American Idiot
for my 9th birthday back in 2004. That was the record that got me hooked on punk music in the first place and Neck Deep has clear intentions to bestow younger audiences with the same sense of awe-and-discovery. Whether they'll pull through or not remains to be seen, but LNOTGY
has all the ingredients neccessary to make it a landmark record whose relevance will persist and be felt for years to come.
2014 was Neck Deep's time of wishful thinking, and 2015 saw their potential flourish -- resulting in what may very well be one of the finest pop punk albums released in years. Whether you're new to the genre or looking to relive your glory days of high-school-awkwardness, then look no further than this.
Can't Kick Up The Roots
The Beach Is For Lovers (Not Lonely Losers)
I Hope This Comes Back To Haunt You