For a band that played their first live show less than two years ago, Welsh pop punk outfit Neck Deep are really flying the flag for UK pop punk. An internet success story, the young band have Facebook likes and Twitter followers in the masses, and fans all over the world. After two EPs and a UK tour with US favourites The Wonder Years and Real Friends, Neck Deep release their debut album on the 13th January.
Wishful Thinking opens with ‘Losing Teeth’, a high-energy song about growing up and moving on that the majority of listeners will be able to relate to. The group reminisce about their time back home, and then go on to voice their hopes and fears for the future and their journey as a band. “But some things must change, and as much as I hate it, it kills me to say our goodbyes as we turn the page, and move on to the next chapter and hope it won’t hold disaster”. The track has a similar sound to the group’s earlier EP A History of Bad Decisions, so fans of that won’t be disappointed.
There is wealth of brilliant material on the album, making it difficult to choose standout tracks, however the heartfelt ‘Growing Pains’ (which has been released as the second single from Wishful Thinking and has received a hugely positive response) and ‘Sweet Nothings’ are prominent in that they are about a subject we can all understand, love and the hardships that go with it. With lyrics like “If I could only begin to explain all my flaws, all my fears, all my stupid mistakes, could you still see past all the things I hide away?” and “‘Cause you’ve had your own mountains to climb, and I’ve got skeletons I hide in the back of my mind where I question myself, I dwell on the past just like everyone else”, and an upbeat sound with clever hooks that flow right the way through the record, Neck Deep perfectly convey the emotions that we all go through when pursuing a new relationship.
The final track ‘Candour’ is a slower, emotional piece about someone’s last moments and reflecting on what has been learnt from them. “I’ll keep the moments sealed in time inside a picture frame, a small reminder of the days I thought would never change, they always say it’s clear to see, how parts of you shine through in me”. As a track, it really showcases the group’s impressive writing skills, and effectively ties the album together. The use of female backing vocals to accompany singer Ben Barlow’s and the wider range of instruments used give the song a different feel to the rest of Wishful Thinking, and will remind fans of early acoustic songs such as ‘A Part of Me’.
The sound of the album is varied, it can obviously be described as pop punk record, but there are elements of other influences, for example metal sounding riffs on some tracks, which give Wishful Thinking a really diverse and unique feel. You can tell that a lot of work has gone into refining the Neck Deep we heard on the Rain In July and A History of Bad Decisions EPs into the grown up, exciting sound we hear on this debut full length album. This is especially evident in the re-recorded version of ‘What Did You Expect?’ found towards the end of the record.
It is very, very hard to believe that Wishful Thinking is a debut album. There are sophomore, or even third or fourth outings by other pop punk groups that do not even touch on the quality of Neck Deep’s debut. Producing a polished sound in this genre is not an easy task, and it is getting increasingly difficult to create something original that doesn’t sound like a re-hashed version of an early Blink-182, or even Simple Plan record (we’re looking at you, All Time Low), however the band have proven that there is still hope for this genre. There has been a lot of hype surrounding the album, and fans understandably had very high expectations. They will not be disappointed.