Neck Deep – All Distortions Are Intentional
Released: July 24th, 2020
Ben Barlow // Vocals
Matt West // Guitar
Sam Bowden // Guitar
Seb Barlow // Bass
Dani Washington // Drums
At a time when Neck Deep’s last release, The Peace and the Panic feels more relevant to current times, ‘Happy Judgement Day’ has returned to my regular listening schedule (I honestly can’t think of a more relevant song this year) and I’m wondering if a song that was released four years ago is a valid choice for song of the year? If not, well maybe there’s a suitable, fitting anthem on their new record, All Distortions Are Intentional. While the band’s previous record was written prior to current times, then this next album was made to provide a sense of hope and upbringing for the future.
With a meticulous kick-drum intro kicking off the album, ‘Sonderland’ features a bridge which sets the scene for the year as we know it: “these strange times that we live in, it will slowly eat you alive if you don’t fit in.” It’s a pessimistic view on the world, yet also mildly uplifting with those rigorous pop punk riffs powering through. The punk riffs continue with ‘Fall’, this time joined by a ridiculously catchy, repetitive chorus and I think this is the newly evolved Neck Deep. Long gone is the teen angst, and out appears a maturing pop punk band ready to proclaim their rightful throne in the music world. ‘Lowlife’ is the anthem for millennials right now with its slightly distorted riffs and those “whoa oh-oh’s” akin to that we heard from the latest Blink-182 record and referring to the rest of the world as “normies”. Being the first single in the lead up to this album, it is a refreshing outlook on Neck Deep as we know it, yet feels just as loud and punchy as its predecessors.
Not convinced by this newly evolved edition of Neck Deep? Perhaps ‘Telling Stories’ will be the track to entice you into this new album. This track is a call out to all the OG Neck Deep fans and combines the best of 2014’s Wishful Thinking and 2015’s Life’s Not Out To Get You. Driven by the upbeat, distorted riffs throughout, the line “It’s not the things you know, it’s the friends you make” will stick with you, and is as pop punk as the band gets here. By far the best track on the whole record, it’s an absolute tune, and I just want to put it on repeat on days. The bangers continue with the band’s second single released in the lead up to All Distortions Are Intentional, ‘When You Know’. A sickly yet infectiously sweet anthem for love, its positively upbeat charm is evident of the band’s musical progression.
The album turns to a sombre tone for a moment with ‘Quarry’, which sees vocalist Ben Barlow getting a little bit emo on this short interlude track that feels almost new age alt-pop, but finds the band quickly finding their self worth in this life. ‘Sick Joke’ brings on a distorted, catchy melody and melancholy lyrics full of gratitude (“I’m still here and I’m not dead…”) This overall gesture feels very reminiscent of All Time Low; it’s catchy as fuck and a tune that’ll grow on you with each listen. With ‘What Took You So Long’, Neck Deep have freshened up their sound with a new age synth pop intro before the guitars pick up a lusciously infectious melody over the chorus, that’ll leave you “feeling significant”. ‘Empty House’ reiterates themes of loneliness; I feel like this is the perfect anthem for iso. Starting off slow and chill, but explodes into a crunchy pop punky riff. It sounds like it was perfectly penned in the aftermath to The Peace and The Panic.
A Neck Deep record isn’t complete without that slow jam fan favourite, and ‘Little Dove’ has the potential to give the OG fan fave ‘A Part Of Me’ a run for its money. While it doesn’t feature a female counterpart, it does have a hint of that summery banjo driving the track and lyrically pulls at your anxieties. Its acoustic-pop sensibilities is sure to calm your overreactive mind and set the paces on a slower note for a moment. “Lately I’ve been pretty down and I don’t know why…” will speak out to many people’s vulnerabilities and holy wow, it’s what we all need to hear sometimes.
The band are ending their most mature album to date with a kind of reflective tone. ‘I Revolve (Around You)’ compares the love between two people to the movement between planets. Beginning almost like a pretty rock ballad, the song steps it up with an explosively infectious chorus over the lyrics, “I revolve around you…” and the band are rocking it to their full potential. Final track ‘Pushing Daisies’ leaves us with a feeling of defiance and utmost positivity to keep pushing on with life. It’s probably my second favourite song on the album, because this song is one of the reasons why I connect with music so much. “Know that I can change the world, and that’s just how it is” is a powerful line for today’s current world climate, and I reckon we all need to feel some more hope and strength during these times.
If you were hoping for Neck Deep to return to form and pull out an absolute monster album like Life’s Not Out To Get You (their best album though, don’t @ me), you’re probably going to have a bad time. While there are some clear standout pop punk anthems here, All Distortions Are Intentional will make you realise that Neck Deep have grown up and matured into a band that’s reaching for new heights. While the infectious sounds are still ever so evident, they’ve pulled lyrical inspiration from much deeper emotions than before, ones that we can absolutely all relate to on some level, and what we began to feel on The Peace and the Panic. Overall, it’s definitely a record any fan of pop punk is going to enjoy, even if like me, it takes you a few more listens to appreciate it completely.
Neck Deep – All Distortions Are Intentional tracklisting:
4. Telling Stories
5. When You Know
7. Sick Joke
8. What Took You So Long?
9. Empty House
10. Little Dove
11. I Revolve (Around You)
12. Pushing Daisies