As the first LP from a relatively new band, Neck Deep’s Wishful Thinking is a record that will securely mark their place in the scene. It’s a fiery mixture of emo and pop punk, like a blend of the best elements of the early iterations of Taking Back Sunday and Blink 182.
There are many elements at play here, for better and worse; for every gorgeous guitar riff, Wishful Thinking also never quite lets me forget that I am listening to a band’s first record, as it tends to tread familiar territory.
Neck Deep’s debut album is a rocket of work, chugging out strong hooks and catchy lyrics. While it tends to adhere to the standards we’ve come to expect from the pop punk genre (fast drums and popping guitars) there are enough elements of the slightest crunch of hardcore to give the songs a darker edge.
The guitar work, though, is simply beautiful. Song after song is impressively written as the lead guitar chokes through smooth lines atop a bed of rough chord work. It reminded me of the poppier aspects of Circa Survive balancing itself against Blink 182’s ferocious punk.
If you need proof, look no further than “Staircase Wit”, as the fluid guitar work opens the song and weaves its way through the chorus, dancing off of the rippling rhythm and working similar to backing vocals. Lead single “Crushing Grief (No Remedy)” is quick and instantly recognizable, with racing guitars and thunderous drumming.
While the album feels above par lyrically, it does manage to sound somewhat generic. While they maintain a fierce punk stand of defiance and harness damaging choruses that are begging a crowd to shout them, they also tend to be vague in terms of content. Nonetheless, while vocalist Ben Barlow does a tremendous job taking the music to task, his singing style is similar for each song, rarely pushing himself as far as it seems he might. He adds a staggering power to the songs, but it’s unfortunately less varied than it could be.
Wishful Thinking is a memorable debut meant for impressively loud live shows and delivers on everything you want from a pop punk album. Every hook is well written and energetically crafted and nostalgic. While it tackles the scene with the energy necessary to turn heads, it feels like Neck Deep are straddling the line of what we expect from the genre instead of attempting to break into new territory all their own. However, whatever the faults may be, this isn’t an album to be missed, and will absolutely keep you listening again and again.
by Kyle Schultz