In 'Deep' trouble
Debut full-length from UK pop-punkers barely leaves a mark
Little was expected from Man Overboard, a run-of-the-mill pop-punk outfit from New Jersey, when they landed on the VFW hall scene in the late 2000s. Their relative obscurity changed after the “Defend Pop Punk” movement, and Man Overboard’s mantra was circled around the Internet by weekend warriors who took up arms against the genre’s naysayers. There has since been a revitalized interest in writing songs about ex-girlfriends ripe for a prepubescent Warped Tour audience.
Don’t get me wrong, Man Overboard rules, and pop-punk’s so-called rebirth has had some incredible offerings. But the first full-length LP from the U.K.‘s Neck Deep, “Wishful Thinking,” is nothing special.
Despite showing some progression from the band’s past EPs, the record’s dozen tracks have been done before by far more venerable groups in the scene. The band even acknowledges this, as they take their name from a song by the defunct Crucial Dudes and have christened their flashy new LP after half of a New Found Glory song title.
There are splashes of ingenuity on the tape, but they’re few and far between. The blend of skate-punk and mid-tempo alternative rock on the track “Zoltar Speaks” begs for inclusion on some reboot of the Tony Hawk video game franchise. The first single, “Crushing Grief (New Remedy),” boasts notable guitar work, if one ignores yet another stab from vocalist Ben Barlow at a devilish past love.
Besides these glimmers of brilliance, “Wishful Thinking” is infested with duds. The re-recorded version of the bitter, biting “What Did You Expect?” suffers from a terrible session at the mixing board and lacks the grit of the original take. “Sweet Nothings” is as vapid as 50 percent of its title, and lacks the sugar rush it forecasts despite machine-gun drums and percolating, well-balanced guitars.
The final nail in the Neck Deep coffin comes at the record’s conclusion. It wouldn’t be a whiny snapshot of middle-class suburbia without a cheesy, overwrought ballad to close out the album. The grandiose “Candour,” which features Ellie Goulding-sound-alike Laura Whiteside on backup vocals, grasps at the time-tested straws of Balance & Composure’s dark melodies and dirge-like arrangements but fumbles at the last minute.
As overproduced strings coax Ben Barlow into screeching that he “wished he told [someone something] yesterday,” listeners eager to hear something laudable might have pined for Barlow’s confession that “Wishful Thinking” was mediocre long before they tuned in.