Sound — 8
If you're an avid listener of pop-punk, you'd know how much of a big boom it's had within the past few years. From the inception of Man Overboard in 2010 with "Real Talk" to The Story So Far with "Under Soil and Dirt" in 2011, those two bands seem to be the ones where there seems to be the biggest draws from both fan bases. From what I've seen, both bands have also influenced a whole group of newcomers. Tell me not, when you listen to Real Friends you can hear the similarities, especially with the vocals. TSSF is the same way with Knuckle Puck. Hell, you could even see the similarities between All Time Low, and State Champs. My point is, when you listen to this new album from Wrexham, UK band Neck Deep, you will hear similarities mainly with older pop-punk bands, Blink-182, and Sum 41. The opening track, "Citizens of Earth" is a great example for a song that showcases some strong Sum 41 influences. You'll know what I'm talking about when you listen to Ben Barlow's vocals. Instrumentally, I am reminded of Bad Religion. Hold on a minute... A pop-punk band that is actually able to fuse both pop and punk together? Granted, I'm not saying every pop-punk song has to be like this, but I don't know many bands who use traditional punk into their music. The lead single "Can't Kick Up the Roots" shows just how basic, yet fun pop-punk can get. Basically, it's a great tune for the summer. "Kali Ma" is one of the other huge standout songs. I don't know if it's a coincidence or not since Jeremy McKinnon (lead vocalist of A Day to Remember) produced the album, and did guest vocals towards the end of the song, but even the instrumentals give off an ADTR vibe, kind of heading towards "It's Complicated." "Serpents" is yet another song that gives off a Sum 41 vibe, mainly in the vocals. The chorus definitely reminds me of something else though. If this wasn't enough to get you hyped up to listen, "December" takes a nice camp fire moment with an acoustic guitar driven track. It's easily a favorite of mine on the album. "I Hope This Comes Back to Haunt You" is another gem that slowly builds up during the intro into an almost Blink-182 guitar tone.
Lyrics — 8
As I had briefly mentioned, "Can't Kick Up the Roots" is a very simplistic, yet fun song to listen to, but it's the lyrics that I think make the song for me. "I've been wasting away,/ But in a town with no way out, there's not much else to do anyway,/ If you're looking for a place to decay,/ Then there will always be a place in my town called revelry." And if mentioning about your town wasn't pop-punk, here's the other lines, "I remember the football games,/ The first time that I got laid,/And the time J broke his finger drinking by the lake." From Wikipedia, Ben also mentioned that on one hand it is about how Wrexham "sucks" while on the other hand that is "what makes it ours." The "roots" part of name refers to the band's love of their hometown despite of the flaws. The band wanted "Can't Kick Up the Roots" to be "a summer song" that "catch[es] people's ears straight away." "Smooth Seas Don't Make Good Sailors" is another good cut on the album, lyrically. "But smooth seas don't make good sailors,/ Jump ship and head for failure,/ Find yourself a tragedy,/ Slowly lose your sanity./ I'll be alright, your bark was worse than your bite./ Left a scar that faded with time,/ Echoed out to the back of my mind." Most of the other lyrics I wouldn't say are bad, but just not that impressive.
Overall Impression — 8
I'll admit, I don't enjoy much pop-punk, but once you give me a catchy hook, or some sort of riffy guitar licks then I might enjoy it. Ben had said that he wanted their second album to sound "bigger and better" than "Wishful Thinking," and claimed that the new album is what "Wishful Thinking" "should've been." I definitely see some vast improvement on this album. Something that was really lacking on the debut album was just how similar every song sounded from one other, and they even made a "generic pop-punk" tee. Given, that's all I thought of these guys before, but for the most part, this album definitely takes some turns into the right direction. It may not be a golden album all the way through, but it's leaps and bounds ahead of their debut album in my eyes.