When Neck Deep burst onto the UK scene in 2012, their hardcore influence was clear. Wishful Thinking, their 2014 debut album, was rife with piercing 1-2-1-2 drumbeats and lengthy lead guitar riffs. Frontman Ben Barlow established himself as an emotional force-of-nature, his vocals as powerful as his lyrics, and fans were quick to climb onboard. In 2015, sophomore album Life’s Not Out to Get You saw Neck Deep exploring new sonic territory, as more infectious hooks livened up their hardcore punk sound. And now, the highly anticipated release of The Peace and the Panic marks a new era for the band: their reinvention as pop-punk revolutionaries.
This album has the musical feel of a band leaning into the pop side of their genre, but it is their heavy focus on the current political climate that solidifies their capital-P punk status. Like Green Day and Anti-Flag before them, Neck Deep takes an uncensored and unapologetic stance and uses their platform in the hardcore world to encourage political action. While Neck Deep has written a handful of apocalyptic tracks since their debut album (check out “Zoltar Speaks” and “Citizens of Earth”), this album hits you with reality in song after song, an unrelenting commentary on the state of our world. “Don’t Wait,” featuring folk crooner Sam Carter, is the height of the chaos– Barlow gives a rally cry that wouldn’t feel out of place at a modern protest: “The government is lying/turn off your TV station/that’s not real information.”
Through his lyrics, Barlow reveals himself to be confused and somewhat cynical. And late in the album, we see him at his most vulnerable: experiencing an existential crisis. In “Where Do We Go When We Go,” Barlow discusses the concept of death from a place of fear and fascination. An existential crisis wrapped up in a nursery-rhyme hook, this track communicates the impossibility of wrapping our minds around death and its aftermath. “I can’t put my faith in a fallacy/I just wanna get one-up on life before it kills me.” Both haunting and catchy, don’t count on getting this song out of your head.
But though lyrically most of the songs follow a thread, Neck Deep really shows their musical growth through their ever-changing sound. Each song is able to surprise you. “In Bloom,” one of the album’s first singles, is a pop-influenced song about a relationship (with a rose-tinted video to match), yet it starts with a sinister atomic bomb warning. “Wish You Were Here” is an acoustic ballad that would make Mayday Parade cry, and serves as a breather in between the heavier tracks. And then there’s “19 Seventy Sumthin’,” an emotional rollercoaster of a song. The lyrical poetry takes us through the classic love story of Barlow’s parents, all set to a clap-along melody that stands out stylistically from the rest of the album.
The Peace and the Panic serves as excellent commentary on 2017’s political hellscape and our collective existential confusion. And hey, it’s also just some imaginative and enjoyable songwriting. Once you get all the lyrics stuck in your head, be sure to catch Neck Deep on their January tour of North America! Tickets are on sale now.
You can still preorder the album here: neckdeep.lnk.to/TPATP