The Peace And The Panic (yup, capitalised ‘and’, and ‘the’) is an LP that makes its predecessor – Life’s Not Out To Get You – seem a master class. But, to be fair, the band’s sophomore album is pretty decent, so it was always going to be difficult to live up to. With two years of production, Neck Deep were expected to get flannel wearing, snap back donning youths in revolt sappily moshing to the band’s recognised take of semi-romanticised pop-punk. Take away the element of moshing, and you have The Peace And The Panic: a predominately mid-tempo stroll with apparent influences taken from the worst of Sum 41; it’s as soft as Conor McGregor’s punch, even when it tries not to be.
Early on in the LP, you’ll be deceived into assuming that familiarly paced riffs, relatively speedy rhythms and two-player guitar articulation would feed off of each other to concoct your standard adolescent pop-punk album. And then the album gradually unwinds and starts to sound extremely superficial and overproduced, a bit like – y’know – California by Blink-182? The best way to describe this album is that it sounds like a pop-punk band who’ve been together for twenty plus years like – oh yeah – Blink-182 or Sum 41, and have only just realised the ‘justice’ that production values could have on records, for bad or good. Sadly, it’s not the former, and the album just ends up sounding like it has far too many layers to accommodate its live sound. I have a feeling these songs will sound OK live, but on this album, their studio work never allows for them to fulfil their potential.
Don’t Wait (featuring Sam Carter) is the only song I would extract from the album to include onto my pop-punk playlist; Happy Judgement day is not bad too in its right, with remarkably apt lyrics in tandem to the state of the world’s affairs and people culture. I would recommend Don’t Wait to Neck Deep fans and the latter for pop-punk fans alike, as it has that standard verse, chorus, bridge/solo format to it; it’s in the standard key of C and has a lovely key change to G which sounds pretty hardcore, man.
Ultimately, this album is just as lacklustre as a pop-punk album comes: Poorly written lyrics for the most part; irritating drum beats that just sound like those clappers used at sports grounds to build atmosphere when the event is struggling to produce its atmosphere. The mandatory acoustic track, Wish You Were Here is trash (listen to December, for a comparison - but you’d be better of listening to Pink Floyd’s song of the same name). To put the proverbial nail in the coffin, the band uses a school choir in the final song to sing the hook which is “pain, pain go away; come back another day”… How most pop-punk.
I didn’t enjoy this album; I think they made a Critical Mistake (pun intended) in their approach to their third album and, sadly, it didn’t quite give me the Motion Sickness the previous records did. Neck Deep have been ‘California’erd’ (which is a now a verb to describe pop-punk albums which sound like Blink-182’s latest mess), and I sincerely hope they recover from it, as Neck Deep were one of the more exciting bands in the dying genre.