Label: Hopeless Records
Release Date: 24th July 2020
"All Distortions Are Intentional may just hint that the band is finally ready to abandon the trappings and tropes that exist within pop-punk."
Hailing from the Welsh town of Wrexham, Neck Deep have been at the forefront of the international pop-punk scene for quite some time. However, All Distortions Are Intentional may just hint that the band is finally ready to abandon the trappings and tropes that exist within pop-punk, something that has been only hinted at in the past. With some mainstream production from Matt Squire (Ariane Grande, One Direction), the Welsh five-piece sound more pop than punk this time around.
All Distortions Are Intentional is Neck Deep’s fourth studio album and first full concept album, with each track revolving around a fictional hopeless romantic called Jett in an imaginary realm dubbed 'Sonderland'. The listener can take this conceptual story as deep or shallow as they like, with each individual listen allowing fans to take away something different. The first track, titled ‘Sonderland’ establishes two things. Firstly, it sets up the conceptual story for the listener by introducing the fairy-tale-like land where the story takes place. Secondly, it also shows the new sonic landscape that Neck Deep are pushing forward with. Things are a bit slower and more atmospheric, punchy drums and a soft guitar play over Ben Barlow’s distinctively and albeit annoying to some, high voice. Throughout this track, however, there are still classic Neck Deep staples, including soaring vocal melodies provided by Barlow.
Intricately detailed, the transition from ‘Sonderland’ into the next track ‘Fall’ was extremely satisfying upon first listen. ‘Telling Stories’ is probably the song that can be considered truly “pop-punk”. The song drips with classic teenage lyrical angst: “Don't waste my time telling stories / I've wasted mine / And it was right now it's been ten years standing at the bus stop / Never had a real job/ Never had anything on a plate”. All the while, an upbeat pop-punk beat plays along. ‘Telling Stories’ is the one track that perfectly encapsulates the balance between old and new Neck Deep, carefree and monumental in its delivery.
Interludes are always a controversial topic on full albums, with more interlude tracks personally being detrimental to the replayability of an album. Thankfully, On All Distortions Are Intentional, there is only one that takes form in ‘Quarry’. Lasting for just over ninety seconds, the song more closely resembles an emo-rap track than anything typically pop-punk but works surprisingly well during a complete run-through of the album.
During the second half of the album, things are far more varied. ‘Empty House’ begins with a soft acoustic guitar and continues for around a minute until the chorus explodes with punchy drums, another catchy chorus, and even the inclusion of a synth that permeates through from the background. ‘Little Dove’ continues the acoustic trend and remains soft all the way through to the song's finale, delivering some exceptionally poignant lyrics: “A thousand miles can seem so complicated / Across the airways with our connection / This modern living / Scrolling through pictures of other people / It's all that anybody talks about.”
Neck Deep’s All Distortions Are Intentional showcases a brand new musical direction, while still having a few dabbles of classic pop-punk spread throughout. Some fans may find this disheartening to discover on their initial playthrough, while others may also find confidence in the new and distinctly more mature direction the band are clearly going in. Despite going into uncharted musical avenues, the changes are presented as natural and relaxed, showcasing an evolution of the group's sound and the final result is one of the best releases of their career.
Words by John Canham.
27th July 2020.