Isolation has forced us all to adapt our own ways of using up all the spare time we have. For me, that manifested into a light bulb moment as I lay face down in my couch for an hour, seemingly avoiding all other responsibilities that I may have had. As I lay there blocking out the rest of the world, listening to Neck Deep’s entire discography for the fourth hour in a row, it dawned on me; what if I set myself the simple task of ranking every single one of their songs?
So I did just that, beginning at 2012’s Rain in July, to 2013’s A History of Bad Decisions, I rode the nostalgia wave into 2015’s Wishful Thinking, and subjected myself to the perfection that is the best pop punk album ever released in 2015’s Life’s Not Out To Get You. Finishing up with 2017’s The Peace And The Panic, and the album’s accompanying B-Sides and the band’s recent singles, I faced down a 49-song long list (alternate/acoustic versions excluded) with no solid belief that I had actually been able to rank them correctly.
After a long time scrutinising my own efforts, I still find myself able to be entirely confident with the order I’ve managed to come up with. So instead of an extremely long listicle, I present to you; A History Of Essential Listening (Neck Deep Edition).
“What Did You Expect?”
Like there was anywhere else more appropriate to begin, the band’s first ever song still holds up. Getting the special treatment when Neck Deep re-recorded the song on Wishful Thinking, the pummelling riffs that fuel the track are more than enough to get anybody off their feet, and we all remember how good it felt to sing along live to that huge “So what did you expect, a fucking compliment?”.
“All Hype, No Heart”
Ahhh, there’s nothing quite like a call out song. “All Hype, No Heart” is 42 seconds of raw angsty punk energy and if you ever needed an excuse to put a hole in your bedroom wall, this might be it. Arriving on the band’s second EP, A History of Bad Decisions, Neck Deep have never written a song quite like it since. But if you’ve ever seen them live, you’d know just how chaotic the song made crowds.
“Crushing Grief (No Remedy)”
The second single from Neck Deep’s Wishful Thinking, “Crushing Grief” remains one of the group’s best songs to date. Chock full of pop-punk guitar shredding, the single was sure to convince those who still doubted the band’s potential on the big stage. It’s fast, it’s fun, and god it gets the nostalgia pumping through the veins whenever I go back and listen to it.
“Can’t Kick Up The Roots”
In a scene full of band’s who love to proclaim their hatred for their hometown, Neck Deep’s love letter to their home felt like a knife through hot butter. The first single off their sophomore LP, Life’s Not Out To Get You, the reception that the song got foreshadowed the insane rise to popularity that the band experienced in the wake of the album. While they were no slouches before, I’d like to think this was when the band began setting themselves apart from their contemporaries.
Suffice to say that upon release, “In Bloom” looked to be one the most divisive of Neck Deep’s career within their fanbase. Its stripped back and vulnerable mood felt unfamiliar, and Ben Barlow’s vocal performance on the song left many fans wondering whether they’d ever manage to pull it off live. It marked a real change of pace for the five-piece on their third album, The Peace And The Panic, but to this day it remains their most popular song with over 35 million streams on Spotify alone. A hauntingly beautiful track, it seems like most are in agreeance nowadays that it is a top-shelf Neck Deep song.
“She’s A God”
If I called “In Bloom” divisive, it was nothing in comparison to the shock waves that their first single post-The Peace And The Panic caused. Titled “She’s A God”, the song was an upbeat love song, and musically it saw the band step into territory that we’d rarely seen the group venture into. Their first hit-out without long-time bassist Fil Thorpe-Evans, the song encapsulated some of the best songwriting, melodies, and production that fans had ever seen from the band. While some fans took issue with the bands experimentation with new lyric ideas, I’d liken it to the alternative answer to 5 Seconds of Summer’s “She Looks So Perfect” and you can’t even try to tell me that’s a bad thing.
The second single to release from Life’s Not Out To Get You, “Gold Steps” reaffirmed everything that the band’s previous single “Can’t Kick Up The Roots” had told us about the band. With an absolute stunner of a chorus, it was driven by youth and childish spirit and truly captured the spirit of a summer spent with friends. It was no frills pop-punk; straight to the point and teeming with life, and will forever remain a fantastic Neck Deep song.
Arriving alongside a second song on the two-track The Peace And The B-Sides, “Beautiful Madness” found itself relegated to a bonus track on a single album variant as Neck Deep launched The Peace And The Panic. Maybe simply too reminiscent of the sound that the band had left behind as they progressed, “Beautiful Madness” was fast and nostalgic, channelling the same youth that defined their earliest releases. We won’t know why the band chose to leave it out of the album’s initial release, but I’m sure glad that we got to see it get a full release eventually.
“Damsel in Distress”
Possibly one of the most criminally underrated Neck Deep songs, I’d like to go on the record and just say that “Damsel in Distress” deserves better. If you’re reading this, go and listen to it right now, or better yet, go give Wishful Thinking an entire listen through. Perhaps overshadowed by just how good the following album would be, that album is full of hits just like this one that seem to have been forgotten as time has passed. Enough is enough if you ask me!
When I say I love Life’s Not Out To Get You, I mean every moment of every track on the album. “Kali Ma” is no different, and to this day remains a fan favourite – and for good reason. Another song with a carefree spirit, the song arrived with a music video shot across the band’s time in Melbourne on their 2016 visit – and who could forget that juicy little Jeremy McKinnon of A Day To Remember feature squeezed in right at the end?
“A Part Of Me”
Stuck in isolation, I find myself missing 2am incoherent singalongs to this song more than ever. The poster song for pop-punk kids on Tumblr, “A Part Of Me” remains one of the band’s most memorable songs for its raw take on heartbreak. Featuring Laura Whiteside (who also featured on “Candour” on Wishful Thinking), the song is forever an immediate association with the name Neck Deep, and was a vehicle for their immediate rise to prominence in the pop-punk scene. If there’s something Neck Deep have always done well, it’s an acoustic track to tug at the heartstrings.
While we’re on the topic of acoustic tracks, we’d be severely amiss to exclude “December”. Initially released as solely an acoustic track, fans might be surprised to know that a full-band version found itself relocated as a bonus track on certain album variants (my personal favourite), well before two additional alternative versions were released. Of these two versions, one remained acoustic featuring Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional while a second full band version featuring Mark Hoppus of Blink-182 also saw release. Ditching raw angst for a soft and troubled ballad, “December” remains one of the most heart wrenching songs the band have ever released.
After original guitarist Lloyd Roberts left the band following the release of Life’s Not Out To Get You, there was always a hovering question on how his loss would affect the musical output of Neck Deep. Questions were soon answered as the band released The Peace And The Panic, which for many seemed to lack the cohesiveness and all-rounded execution of the band’s previous album. Despite this, the album didn’t lack absolute belters with “Parachute” undeniably being one of them. Like many songs on the album, “Parachute” presented a different side to the band, but it’s one that I’m very happy we got to see.
“Smooth Seas Don’t Make Good Sailors”
Now this might be a controversial opinion – but I’m ready to call “Smooth Seas Don’t Make Good Sailors” the best song from Life’s Not Out To Get You. Charged by a searing riff that’s maintained throughout the duration of the song, the song was an untroubled anthem of recklessness and adventure. It stands for everything fans love about the band; unfiltered punk angst, huge instrumentals, and a youthful view on life. Life’s Not Out To Get You was ultimately the soundtrack of summer, and nothing else quite encapsulates such a feeling as this song does.
What everyone’s wondering now is, what’s next for Neck Deep? If the recently released “Lowlife” is any indication, the band are once again headed into uncharted territory. The first single from the band’s upcoming album All Distortions Are Intentional due to release on July 24, the band embrace their pop influences more than ever before as they begin to venture down the rabbit hole on the rebellious single. “Lowlife” is quirky and fun, and if you don’t like it… you’re a normie, so fucking boring.
If you’re still reading, you’ll be happy to know that we’ve saved the best for last. I’d like to make the completely factual and not at all subjective statement that “Motion Sickness” is the best song that Neck Deep have released to this day. The first track from The Peace And The Panic, the song takes the best of Life’s Not Out To Get You and pushes it even further. It’s high-energy and high-spirited, ridiculously fun, and you know there’s a cheeky little breakdown thrown in the mix too. I genuinely can’t put my love for this track into words, but I have no doubt in my mind that if I could only ever listen to one Neck Deep song for the rest of my life, this would be it.
All Distortions Are Intentional releases on July 24 via Hopeless Records. You can preorder the album here: http://smarturl.it/NDADAI[Neck Deep photo courtesy of Liam Davidson, from ‘The Peace And The Panic Straya Tour’]