Neck Deep are the band of the moment. A UK band rocketing from nowhere to the lofty heights of Hopeless Records, massive tours, and an adoring fan base in a little over a year. Are they really a pop-punk band of the majesty this implies, the result of the world’s most well oiled PR machine, or something in the middle? ‘Wishful Thinking’ certainly isn’t as bad as some corners of the Internet would have you believe but nor is it anywhere near as good as many others would posit. This is a record that sounds like the mean of every pop-punk record you’ve ever heard, produced to the point of frightening squeaky cleanness.
Opener ‘Losing Teeth’ is a prime example. Here is a track that would have sat nicely on many Drive-Thru Records from the Early-2000s, albeit none of the legendary label’s best releases. There’s a good crunchy chug and a catchy riff, a few neat vocal trade-offs, and an unusual fade out given that it’s the opener. ‘Crushing Grief’ follows up with basically identical fare. Again, the track is solid middle-of-the-road pop-punk, although the choruses just don’t seem to work. The track feels very much like two halves of separate songs stuck together to make one awkward whole.
‘Wishful Thinking’ carries on without much of note until the very end of fifth track, ‘Zoltar Speaks.’ All feels done until it kicks back in with a key change that would make the cheesiest of boy bands blush. It’s tacked on at the end of the track and it’s just absolutely awful. If I could change anything about any record I’ve ever heard, it would probably be the simple job of lobbing off this cringe-worthy escapade.
After that the album returns to normal. In each track there’s a pretty cool riff over the intro, the choruses all have a little extra energy, and there’s a nice easy sing-along around 2/3 of the way through. ‘What Did You Expect?’ from the ‘Rain In July’ EP makes a comeback just before the end. There’s no denying it sounds a lot better on ‘Wishful Thinking’ than it did in its first incarnation and it’s one of the standouts of the album, raising questions about the band’s growth as songwriters since Neck Deep’s inception.
After 11 tracks of comprehensively okay pop-punk, Neck Deep decide to try their hand at what I suppose might be termed a ballad. They probably shouldn’t have done. Up until this point every song has been alright but this is poor. The idea that any sad subject has to be slow and tired has long been destroyed, but unfortunately, Neck Deep appear to have missed the memo.
Overall ‘Wishful Thinking’ is just too standard to feel like a keeper. It’s a thousand records I’ve heard before – many of them much better and many of them much, much worse. It’s entirely unoriginal and the vocals often sound forced, leaving this record just feeling somewhat uninspired. ‘Wishful Thinking’ doesn’t deserve some of the ire it will attract but in the end it feels pretty inconsequential.
‘Wishful Thinking’ by Neck Deep is out now on Hopeless Records.
Words by Thomas Knott (@nounandthenouns)