Album review: Neck Deep – Neck Deep

Long before actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney acquired Wrexham FC, as chronicled in Welcome To Wrexham, it was Neck Deep who flew the flag for the North Wales town on the international stage. But, despite being a very successful export in the U.S., the band decided not to cash in on the trappings of that success for album number five – returning instead to the hometown where they sowed the seeds for an extraordinary success story.

The resulting record, as telegraphed by its self-titled status, is a real back to basics affair. Neck Deep’s last album, 2020’s excellent All Distortions Are Intentional, seemed hellbent on overhauling their pop-punk blueprint with a lofty concept and hat tips to a formative diet of Britpop. Whatever the quintet’s reasons for deciding to strip things back again, their more ambitious excursions have made them more incisive songwriters than ever.

Neck Deep is a record that rushes you from the off. Dumbstruck Dumbfuck is a blast of pure abandon, while Sort Yourself Out and We Need More Bricks breathlessly grab you by the ears and pull you along. Lyrically, Ben Barlow’s preoccupations are much the same as they’ve always been, for him and for pop-punk, with a big focus on love, loss, betrayal and, on Heartbreak Of The Century, mental health (‘Depression is the devil on my shoulder / That I can’t suppress and I feel the desperation’) – albeit conveyed more nakedly than last time around.