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The Mass Media

Neck Deep has a marvelous return to form in their newest album

Olivia Reid
Ben Barlow, the frontman of Neck Deep, performing at Sad Summer Fest in Worcester, Ma. Photo by Olivia Reid / Photography Editor.

The pop-punk music scene wouldn’t be the same without Neck Deep. They’ve unofficially headlined the genre since their formation in 2012, and at least part of the credit goes to them for the style’s explosion in the 2010s. 

The fast-paced drums, anti-establishment lyrics and combination of punk rock and pop styles that the band employs have all heavily contributed to the genre’s popularity throughout the years. Recently, they’ve found themselves playing alongside massive bands that they originally considered idols. 

That said, the band has much to live up to every time they release a new album, and they’ve already gotten a strike on their report card. The group’s last release, “All Distortions are Intentional,” released in the summer of 2020, was objectively the weakest of their discography; most of the songs, aside from a few singles, were unremarkable, and it attempted to tell a story that ended up being difficult to follow.

It was an unwelcome departure from the band’s typical sound, and it left fans wondering what was to become of Neck Deep. The group’s radio silence on the topic of new music wasn’t comforting either. When new singles finally began coming out in late 2023, the pop-punk audience rejoiced at what they were hearing through their speakers: it seemed that Neck Deep was back and better than ever. 

Now that their newest creation, the self-titled album “Neck Deep,” has been released, it’s worth examining to see if that statement is true. Has the group redeemed themselves?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is “hell, yeah.”

It’s clear from the very beginning of the album that Neck Deep is back with a vengeance. The opening track, “Dumbstruck Dumbfuck,” is explosive, original and undeniably catchy from the get-go. In fact, that can be said for all of the first half of the album; “This Is All My Fault” is a great representation of pop-punk as a whole, and one can practically feel the vibrations of front man Ben Barlow’s teenage lamenting in “Heartbreak of the Century.”

The album’s best track is “We Need More Bricks,” which is strikingly reminiscent of the band’s 2017 hit “Happy Judgement Day.” The songs share the same angsty message of rebellion; Barlow cries, “We need more punks and we need more bark / and we need more bite / just because it’s not on your own doorstep doesn’t make it right.” It’s a great anti-political anthem that the band was missing in their last album. 

However, it might be the order of the songs that takes the listener away from the experience. The album structures “We Need More Bricks,” “Heartbreak of the Century,” and “Go Outside!” in that exact sequence, which wouldn’t be a bad thing if it weren’t for the key of the songs. All of these songs are in the same key—E flat major, for music nerds—which casts the terrible curse of “same song syndrome.” 

Pop-punk is a genre that must be handled carefully, as bands run the risk of creating a song that sounds exactly like another band’s, beat for beat. Sometimes, bands can even fall into this trap with their own songs; Neck Deep is no stranger to this. Their sophomore album “Life’s Not Out to Get You” suffers from this syndrome, with some of the songs being indistinguishable from one another.

Luckily, “Neck Deep” has the advantage of 12 years of experience, which means that songs in the same key are easier to distinguish from another; it can still be a tiring experience for those who are made aware of it. Five of the album’s ten songs are in the same key; that’s an astounding 50 percent of songs that run the risk of sounding exactly the same. They’re playing a risky game, and the results depend entirely on the listener. 

The latter half of the album sags at points, with some tracks toward the end being unmemorable. It’s tracks like “Take Me with You” and “It Won’t Be Like This Forever” that save it from completely falling off the rails. Unfortunately, these two tracks, along with “We Need More Bricks” and “Heartbreak of the Century,” were previously released as singles before the album came out, and the rest of the album ends up being underwhelming in comparison. 

That’s not to say that the album is lacking, though. It’s a remarkable return to the genre that Neck Deep fans fell in love with back in 2012. The standout songs really make the album shine, and even the weaker tracks have their merits. It’s a beacon of hope for Neck Deep fans that have been waiting for four years to see the band return to their roots. 

Neck Deep will be headlining in Boston on Friday, Feb. 16 at the Roadrunner at 7 p.m. They’ll be accompanied by DRAIN, Bearings and Higher Power.

About the Contributor
Olivia Reid, Photo Editor