For more than 40 years, pop punk has constantly revelled in the jubilance of youth, searched for the promise of never-ending summers, and found a light at the end of angsty tunnels. It signifies the formative years of so many: bouts of heartbreak, and the most carefree of times. Transcending generations, it’s carved out a legacy that has reinvented itself many times, yet maintained it’s core values and integrity.
In 2008, a new era of pop punk began to bubble in the autumn-leaved, sprawling suburbs of the USA. Bands like Man Overboard, Transit and Fireworks began to usher in a fresh take on the genre – neon tank tops, snapbacks, and songs about vodka were out – and introspection and metaphor were in.
For years after, The Wonder Years, Real Friends and The Story So Far stormed the stages of Warped Tour, with khaki shorts and beaten up Vans kicks at the helm, as they sang tales of heartbreak, growing up and wanting to leave your humble hometown.
During that time, Neck Deep burst onto the scene, quickly rising to the heights of pop punk-superstardom. Although Neck Deep fit in well (and still do) with their contemporaries, there was always something a little different – a little more soaring, cheeky, and straight up about the Welsh fivesome.
Their debut album Wishful Thinking, released in 2014, combined the stings and pains of growing up with the snarky sentiments of revenge. Opting for heavier riffs and meaty textures, it was a melancholic musing on growing up and the mundanities of hometown life. It was extremely well received amongst pop punk fans and went down like a treat live – the Wishful Thinking era was a storm of exhilaration.
In 2015, Life’s Not Out To Get You blew every expectation out of the water.
Bold, epic and life affirming, it bellows with confidence. It’s a reassuring jolt of energy and sheer epic-ness. It’s the sound of the sun setting behind the Warped Tour main stage just as the circle pit stirred; of balmy, innocent, fun nights and hours spent jamming along to perfectly crafted pop punk tracks in your bedroom-turned-mosh pit.
I remember ordering the album on vinyl prior to my HSC trials, it arriving at my door on the last day of exams. After that, it was the soundtrack to bittersweet parties spent with people I hardly see anymore, afternoons with friends, and that weird, uncomfortable period between high school and uni.
Maybe my fondness for the record is a result of my memories attached to it, but I know I’m not the only one who continues to bask in its glory.
Upon its release the album’s impact immediately reverberated throughout the scene. Pop punk kids were (and still are) enthralled by its unadulterated bliss and penchant for positive life lessons.
It’s a prime example of what great pop punk should be and gave the genre what it sorely needed – a saccharine drenched message of positivity. Whilst most other bands were basking in gloom, Neck Deep opted to look on the brighter side of life both musically, lyrically, and aesthetically.
Albums that confident, brash and go on to define scenes and eras – Enema Of The State, From Under The Cork Tree, Homesick – they all have an x-factor. They may not always totally reinvent the wheel, but they all say something with the most conviction.
With A Day To Remember’s Jeremy McKinnon at the helm, there was no way the album wasn’t going to be huge (in more ways than one).
Opting for a sleek and pop leaning production styling, Life’s Not Out To Get You was still crunchy enough to not alienate kids who preferred The Story So Far’s hardcore leanings, yet rope in those who craved a good pop hook.
Life’s Not Out To Get You is the perfect culmination of multiple eras of pop punk. It strikes towards the heaviness and riff-focused push of early ’00s luminaries like Sum 41, combined with the clean gleam the late ’00s stars like All Time Low. It isn’t afraid to lean into its A Day To Remember worship and moodiness of modern trends – it’s a celebration of driving energy and a masterclass in craft.
Lead single, ‘Can’t Kick Up The Roots’ is a bouncy ode to the places of our youth. Sentimental, cheeky and audacious, it’s a tale of nostalgia personified in its mammoth chorus that has never ceased to falter in a live setting. Not only does ‘Gold Steps’ feature one of the most slamming pop punk riffs of the last decade, but its lyrics have since been tattooed across the forearms fans worldwide.
“I’ve been moving mountains that I once had to climb” is a beautifully put sentiment on the confusion, pain, and joys of growing up. Its music video is the summer celebration of your dreams – in a cacophony of fireworks, skateboarders fly, lakes are dived into, and Neck Deep emerge like the most relatable rock stars around.
If sugar were to have an aural embodiment it’d come in the form of ‘Kali Ma’. Driven by a bubbling guitar lead line and pulsating bass lines that align with the force of the drumming, it begs listeners to do nothing more than “jump-tha-fuck-up”. Throwing itself into a double-timed second verse in a flurry of rolling drums, octave chords and chunking palm muted chugs, it could be one of the most perfect pop punk songs of all time.
Heading into darker territory ‘The Beach Is For Lovers (Not Lonely Losers)’ and ‘Serpents’provide the perfect antidote to a saccharine overdose, whilst ‘December’ is the angsty-acoustic ditty every pop punk album needs. The bass driven ‘Rock Bottom’ closes out the album in a deep breath of accomplishment.
After its release, the band embarked on their biggest tours to date, donned the cover of every scene mag, headlined the Warped Tour, and undoubtedly took the world by storm.
Let’s take a look back on what an incredible year 2015 was for pop punk.
Knuckle Puck released their massive debut effort Copacetic and The Story So Far dropped their shoe-gazey self titled album. Man Overboard (RIP) released their epic final album Heavy Love, The Wonder Years unveiled their most mature effort to date No Closer To Heaven, and State Champs went Around The World And Back. As It Is also burst out of the gates with Never Happy, Ever After.
For Neck Deep’s Life’s Not Out To Get You to stick out in the way it the way it did amongst a crop of excellent releases is a testament to its quality.
Since 2015, the gatekeepers to the pop punk scene have changed. The Wonder Years have headed into more mature alt-rock territory and Man Overboard have since broken up. Neck Deep, alongside State Champs, are the current reigning kings of the scene. Neck Deep’s fresh take on the genre has opened the floodgates for a new crop of bands to push through into top-tier status, embracing their upbeatness, their pop-proclivities in hooks and thick, riff drenched
Waterparks, Between You & Me, Stand Atlantic, ROAM, WSTR and Seaway are carving a path forged by Neck Deep, and are setting the tone for the next few years of the genre.
Pop punk has endured for so long because of its ability to be dynamic and change, whilst maintaining a deep integrity to its core values of fun – Life’s Not Out To Get You is already a classic because it bridged this gap perfectly, and will continue to inspire pop punk kids for generations to come.
NECK DEEP Australian Tour
Tickets on sale May 17, head here for more info
Supported by Stand Atlantic, Between You And Me & Stateside
Thursday, November 29th
Capitol, Perth, WA
(Between You And Me not appearing)
Saturday, December 1st
The Metro, Sydney, NSW
Sunday, December 2nd
The Triffid, Brisbane, QLD
Tuesday, December 4th
170 Russell, Melbourne, VIC