It’s no doubt that UK’s pop-punk quintet Neck Deep has been on a steady rise since the release of the Rain In July EP. The guys weren’t really doing anything too different or game changing, but they were definitely doing the sound well. The second, three-song EP – titled A History of Bad Decisions – showed a bit of progression, but still had the same angsty feel of Rain In July. After signing to Hopeless Records, Neck Deep announced their debut full length, Wishful Thinking, would be released January 2014. I was pretty interested in how this record would sound because I felt like the band needed to change a bit to expand their fan base; I was pleasantly surprised with the change in sound on this record.
Let’s be honest, the angsty pop-punk sound can only get a band so far. Signing to a bigger label like Hopeless, I knew that Neck Deep must’ve stepped their game up big time. The record opens up with “Losing Teeth” and “Crushing Grief (No Remedy).” Both songs are a progression from the EPs, and that makes a lot of sense; they have the same sound and a lot better songwriting. I immediately also noticed that the vocals improved a lot. “Staircase Wit” was the first song to show a new side of the band, as it's a lot more melodic and catchier than anything from the first two releases. “Damsel In Distress” is a very fun song. It weaves in and out of melodic choruses and fast-paced verses driven by a punk beat. The following track, “Zoltar Speaks,” reminds me a lot of late '90s/early 2000s punk rock. It almost feels like it has a very strong influence from The Offspring. It’s a very interesting song because the verses feel a bit more dark, while the chorus is very upbeat and catchy.
“Growing Pains” is one of the fastest songs on the record, but at the same time, it shows off a new style of vocals for the band. The chorus carries one of the most melodic melodies I’ve heard from Neck Deep. “Say What You Want” is a short track, but the only one that really could have fit on a prior release. I feel like it’s a nice ode to the fans that have been with the band since the first EP. Track eight, “Mileage,” is probably the darkest sounding song Neck Deep has ever written. It shows off some interesting vocal harmonies and melodies. “Sweet Nothings” picks up the pace as soon as “Mileage” ends. I instantly fell in love with this track. It just has those very strong-sounding, sing-a-long type melodies – and one hell of a chorus.
The re-recorded version of “What Did You Expect?” definitely proves that the band has changed and progressed for the better. The best word to describe this version would be “mature.” The mixing/production also just feels a lot more real. “Blank Pages” is a big change for Neck Deep. The song houses some very alt-rock sounding riffs and vocal harmonies. It’s nothing like anything the band has written, but at the same time, it still feels like a Neck Deep song. “Candour” is a very nice way to close Wishful Thinking. I really enjoyed the vocals on this track, both from the lead singer and Laura Whiteside – who appeared on Neck Deep’s most successful track, “A Part of Me.” It’s a very enjoyable ballad that includes some string work and soothing drum parts.
If you enjoyed Neck Deep for what they said and who they were on their prior EPs, you will enjoy this record a lot. On the other hand, if you were into the band solely because they played angsty/aggressive pop punk, you may have a tough time getting into Wishful Thinking. The record is fun, catchy and a lot more thought out than anything the band has done in the past. There’s nothing too extreme or groundbreaking about it, but the album just works. It’s a great debut from a young band, and it will most likely provide some cool opportunities for Neck Deep. Although the record may be a bit too mature sounding for some of the band’s old fans, I feel the new fans with make up for that. Being driven by this record, 2014 will be a good year for Neck Deep.