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It’s been a short but productive journey for Neck Deep. Despite only forming in 2012, the Wrexham, UK pop punk freshman garnered worldwide attention for themselves with the release of their debut EP, ‘Rain In July’, last September. The six-track effort was a tantalising melting pot of modern pop punk stylism, drawing a large influence from US mainstays The Wonder Years, Transit, Handguns and, above all else, The Story So Far. On their freely distributed follow-up, ‘A History Of Bad Decisions‘, the band continues to carve their own place in the crowded genre, aided by skilful songwriting, wordy, heartfelt lyricism and exceptional production values.
Despite only featuring three songs, ‘A History Of Bad Decisions’ packs more than enough energy and diversity into its ten-minute running time to warrant serious attention. Opener ‘Up In Smoke’ sets the mood with a melodic, chord-driven introduction before diving head-first into a rapid-fire punk beat. Drummer Dani Abasi’s snare hits propel the song forward, laying the foundation for dense power chords and simplistic, catchy riffs from guitarists Lloyd Roberts and Matt Webber. Vocalist Ben Barlow directs his lyrics squarely towards his parents, tackling their inability to understand his dreams and aspirations: "I can’t live up to all your standards. Can’t we learn to disagree?" Quotable lines such as this are quick to sink their hooks into the brain, hammered home by the honest conviction of Barlow’s powerful, rough-edged delivery.
‘Tables Turned’ is a dynamic epic of a breakup tune, channelling the glory days of Hit The Lights with a catchy, hook-laden vocal melody from Barlow and bouncing drumbeat. Abasi quickly raises the tempo into trademark pop punk double-time, filling the track with energy as Barlow delivers lyrical punchlines that are more than worthy of the bands that inspire them: "Rest assured, it’s not you I miss. I don’t care where you lay your head at night." Barlow‘s melodies are more adventurous this time around, increasing his range and variety to aid the song’s. Continuing its chameleon trend of drastic dynamic shifts, the track segues into a mellow, Transit-esque guitar interlude before descending into a crunching, tasteful pseudo-breakdown.
‘Head To The Ground’ is the EP’s most musically interesting and endearing moment, lulling this reviewer into a state of awe with its stripped down acoustic balladry and shifting time signature. Here, Barlow is truly in his element, giving his most memorable performance of the band’s short career with a simple, tender love song draped with cautious optimism: "And I hope I don’t drag you down, ’cause I’m starting to feel alright next to you." The whole band, electric guitars in tow, eventually rejoin the fray, bringing the EP to a close with an explosive, triple-meter climax that more than demonstrates their future potential.
Despite wearing their influences on their sleeve, ‘A History Of Bad Decisions’ helps to further progress Neck Deep’s take on modern pop punk. Embodying the genre’s well-worn tropes of fast-paced tempos, angst-laden lyricism and memorable vocal melodies, the three-track EP is a firm reminder of the UK band’s potential to achieve bigger and better things as their career continues.
1. Up In Smoke
2. Tables Turned
3. Head To The Ground