Life's Not Out To Get You Review

artist: Neck Deep date: 08/19/2015 category: compact discs
Neck Deep: Life's Not Out To Get You
Released: August 7, 2015
Genre: Pop Punk
Label: Hopeless Records
Number of Tracks: 12
"Mature" would probably be the most fitting word to describe this release which demonstrates a more measured approach towards not only the lyrics, but also the structure of each song and the "catchiness" of the choruses.
 Sound: 8
 Lyrics: 8.5
 Overall Impression: 8
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reviews (2) 16 comments vote for this album:
overall: 8
Life's Not Out To Get You Reviewed by: vppark2, on august 19, 2015
3 of 6 people found this review helpful

Sound: 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. // 8

Lyrics: 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. // 8

Overall Impression: 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. // 8

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overall: 8.3
Life's Not Out To Get You Reviewed by: mclovin4, on august 19, 2015
2 of 3 people found this review helpful

Sound: Somewhere between the teenage heartthrob factor of 5 Seconds of Summer or All Time Low and the more mature, edgy qualities of post-hardcore bands like A Day to Remember, the Wrexham hailing quintet have seemingly been able to strike the perfect balance between the two with their sophomore album: "Life's Not Out to Get You." "Mature" would probably be the most fitting word to describe this release which demonstrates a more measured approach towards not only the lyrics, but also the structure of each song and the "catchiness" of the choruses. Timidly dubbed "The pop-punk album of the year?" by Kerrang!, the sound of the record will be familiar to long-time fans with the punchy guitar chords and intricate harmonies heard in last year's "Wishful Thinking," yet it is still a vast improvement, showing Neck Deep's growth over the past year. One of the most important aspects of any post-hardcore album is song variation and the Welshmen have made sure that each song is different from the last with slower, more emotionally charged tracks like "December" and "Serpents" sitting nicely alongside more lively ones such as "Threat Level Midnight" and "Can't Kick Up the Roots." The latter is a perfect example of the group's more refined, accessible sound and by far my favourite song on the record. That said, although the harmonies are impeccable throughout, I feel that they have been over-used in places which detracts from Ben Barlow's vocals. If his vocals had a little more exposure, I think it would be a major overall improvement. // 8

Lyrics: The lyrics is where Neck Deep distance themselves from the other more mainstream pop-punk acts of recent years. Despite the fact that the majority of the themes focused on in "Life's Not Out to Get You" are nothing ground-breaking: love, being poor, home, getting over the hard times in life etc. They convey the messages through perceptive metaphors and down to Earth language. Not only are their lyrics intelligent and easy to relate to, but they are also written with genuine conviction. The messages in the lyrics are of utmost importance and the sound second, not the other way around which is so often the case in artists of this genre. Influences from pop-punk heavyweights including ADTR's Jeremy Mckinnon have had a profound effect on the lyrics which give this record that mature edge which was missing from their début. Furthermore, Barlow has chosen not to sacrifice each song's meaning for the sake of making the words rhyme which is an admirable quality and reminiscent of Panic! at the Disco in that sense. This is encapsulated in "Can't Kick Up the Roots" and "Kali Ma," the former an ode to their home town of Wrexham in North Wales. // 9

Overall Impression: While every album has it's own individual flaws and strengths, Neck Deep have been able to avoid many of the pitfalls into which post-hardcore bands so often fall. It cannot be overlooked that some of the songs do blend together but the sheer volume of incredible tracks like "Threat Level Midnight," "Lime St.," "Serpents" and "Can't Kick Up the Roots" propel this record up to greatness. Perhaps the most impressive feature is how the group have not been afraid to try something different, branching into Sum 41-style skate punk in "Citizens of Earth" alongside "Blink 182-esque" riffs in "Rock Bottom." There may still be a fair chunk of the year left to go but it's going to take something seriously special to beat this record in the race for "pop punk album of the year." // 8

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