[Note: In the midst of allegations made against a former member of Neck Deep in regards to unlawful interactions with underage fans, we would like to state that neither Lucy Out Loud nor members of its staff condone any sort of actions of that nature. This
review was aimed to focus on the band and on the album’s merit, though we
deemed it irresponsible to make no mention of the aforementioned issues. The
band’s official statement on the situation can be read here. Thank you.]
Punk doesn’t do intros.*
It’s supposed to start mid-chorus. There’s no clearing of
throat, because the best punk singers have the scratchiest of screeching vocal
chords anyway. You just start in the middle, and don’t worry if the listener
has time to get acclimated. They’re pulled along, and they’re with you, or
they’re against you.
British pop-punkers Neck Deep know this. They know all the
lessons that Punk has been teaching us. They’ve got a few seconds of record
studio leftovers, and we’re in, on the opener of their new album, “Citizens of
Earth.” A few hard-hitting eighth notes that rise in intensity and before long
we’re in the album, and singer Ben Barlow is telling us how “every earthquake
starts with a little shake.”
It’s a great opener. It’s a calling card and a call to arms. It
shoves us right into their world before we have time to figure out what that
world is. This has been the best way to start a Punk album ever since
“London Calling,” but while Strummer and co. were ushering in an
apocalypse to fit their whole political movement, Neck Deep are starting an
album called Life’s Not Out To Get You, mostly about heartbreak and feeling
lonely and stuff like that.
And then “Threat Level Midnight” starts, with another
perfectly executed Punk intro, and you can’t escape from any of those feelings,
or the excellent 90’s-emo guitar work. Over the course of 12 songs, Neck Deep
wrestle with their title, against the unstoppable irrationality of youth that
insists that life is, after all, out to get you, and you specifically.
Sometimes they’re telling us about that girl and how she got away, or about the
loneliness of friends that aren’t worth it, sometimes while on the beach. But
there’s the other through line, the get-over-it reminder of the album’s title,
that infects songs like lead single “Gold Steps” (the source of the title
refrain). The two sides are fighting, and it’s not ever quite clear which is
winning. It makes the emotions of both feel earned, as they argue against each
other from across tracks.
Neck Deep don’t do anything particularly new. They’re not
trying to. There’s nothing to their sound that makes them radically different
from their peers in the pop-punk world. But the band stands out, because
they’re good at what they do. The songwriting is strong, the hooks are soaring,
and all of the elements of the band work together perfectly. By keeping things
straight without too many frills, the band’s strengths are allowed to shine
The lyrics are through the album are inches from a diary, with
enough wit to stand out, but not too much to lessen the bare-hearted rawness.
The band could be described similarly. There is a crispness to every sound,
with a sledgehammer rhythm section and a well-matched lead-rhythm guitar
battle. But there’s just enough rawness there—much of it coming from Barlow’s
voice—to keep it interesting.
And before you know it, the album closes with “Rock Bottom,”
losing energy for just enough time in 36 minutes to fit in a well-executed
ballad called “December.” The album closes like it opens, almost in the middle.
You don’t have time to quite figure out what just hit you, but it was
*Which of course won’t stop me from writing for an
unnecessarily long time before actually mentioning the music I’m supposed to be
reviewing. Punk also hates rules, right?
Release Date: August 14th, 2015
Run Time: ~35 minutes
1. Citizens Of Earth
2. Threat Level Midnight
3. Can’t Kick Up The Roots
4. Kali Ma
5. Gold Steps
6. Lime St.
8. The Beach Is For Lovers (Not Lonely Losers)
10. Smooth Seas Don’t Make Good Sailors
11. I Hope This Comes Back To Haunt You
12. Rock Bottom
Written by Jon Hecht