Neck Deep - Life's Not Out To Get You (Cover Artwork)

Neck Deep

Life's Not Out To Get You (2015)

hopeless Records

Neck Deep, these four Welsh pop-punkers, put together a near perfect album with Life's Not Out to Get You. Now it’s not near perfect in a sense that it exudes exceptional musicianship or is lyrically advanced. Quite the opposite. Life’s Not Out To Get You is predictable and basic, but delivers over and over for those that like heavy power chords, creative hooks and big, memorable choruses. There are few duds and everything is jam worthy. It’s exactly what you hope for after slapping down ten bucks for twelve tracks.

Neck Deep’s second full-length album opens with “Citizens of Earth.” Don’t waste your time with this awkwardly angst, train wreck of a song. It's the album's one mishap. "Threat Level Midnight” is more appropriate introduction to the album, with an anthem-like guitar riff mixed with a chunky baseline all backing the bouncy vocals of singer Ben Barlow. Just for reference, he sounds like a cross between Derek Sanders of Mayday Parade and “Soupy” from The Wonder Years.

The album continues with track “Can’t Kick Up The Roots.” It’s the album’s first single, and probably the best track. With a big sound, pace variance and stand-out lyrics “This place is such a shipwreck, but this shipwreck, it is mine,” Life’s Not Out To Get You’s third track is worth repeated listens and a highlight song for its creators.

“Kali Ma” keeps up the album’s momentum, building nicely from verse to chorus. “Gold Steps” turns the album up a notch, with a first verse paced by double-kicks before a brass chorus barks the album’s signature line “And life’s not out to get you, despite the things you’ve been through.” Barlow practically raps the second verse before aggressive finish underlining his delightfully snotty vocals.

“Lime St.” finishes off a five-song streak of quintessential, and maybe even too-typical, pop-punk. Fans are pointing out the lyrical similarity between the first verse and Blink-182’s “Feeling This”- “just need to see you smile, or maybe stay awhile” compared to Blink’s “look to the past and remember her smile, maybe tonight I can breath for awhile.” Blink inspired or not, it’s a great track with an aggressive finish.

“Serpents” is a bit dark, echoing sounds of old-school Hawthorne Heights. You can’t make it through a pop-punk album without some song about the band whining about leaving their hometown and chasing their ambitions. That’s what “The Beach Is For Lovers (Not Lonely Losers)” is for. “December” is the token slow jam, with a lovey-dovey chorus that will earn plenty of YouTube Plays.

“Smooth Seas Don’t Make Good Sailors” is one of the fastest tracks on the Life’s Not Out To Get You. It’s loud and the dual chorus is one of the high points of the album. There are a couple awkward screams and the chord progression is a little messy. Think New Found Glory’s last couple albums for an idea of how it sounds. “I Hope This Comes Back To Haunt You” starts slow before ultimately becoming one of the album’s biggest tracks. “Rock Bottom” is a nice capper with an opening base line almost identical to that of Blink-182’s “Man Overboard.” Ultimately, the song carries out Life’s Not Out To Get You’s overall theme of embracing hardships and letting go of negativity.

Neck Deep’s second album is a proper ode to the genre. It reverberates a sound that got lost as many pop-punkers assimilated to the Indie scene, or tried to dig their feet into the post-hardcore movement. This album is probably eight or nine years too late, which is perfect for anyone looking to feel nostalgic for about forty minutes, or just enjoy some really good music. What is most impressive is how the album preserves this sound while at the same time making each track stand alone. That is the calling card of good pop-punk, doing a lot with a little.

Fans of the genre will love this album. It is everything they have been waiting for and the best addition to your pop-punk collection since The Wonder Year’s Greatest Generation. As much we might like the flag bearers, it’s the founding fathers - the Green Days, Blinks and NFGs- that we want to hear. Fans want to listen to Dookie or Enema of the State again like their new. An impossible wish that feels somewhat fulfilled by Life’s Not Out To Get You.