Album Review: Neck Deep – All Distortions Are Intentional

Wrexham pop-punk giants Neck Deep are back with a stellar fourth record. 

Producted by Grammy nominated A-list producer Matt Squire (Panic! At The Disco, Underøath, Ariana Grande, One Direction), was created by the band and producer being tucked away at world famous residential studio Monnow Valley, in the gorgeous but remote Wye Valley in the heart of the band’s native Wales. ADAI is an immersive and conceptual experience with anthemic tracks from start to finish and delivers a band that has grown exponentially since the release of their last record, The Peace And The Panic in 2017.

If concept albums aren’t for you, you still really ought to give this one a go. With heavy doses of Neck Deep’s roots, it’s also full of pop-infused melodies and heavy punk attitudes. Genre, just like gender, is concept for the past anyway. ADAI is filled to the brim with festival and arena ready tunes, made for sweaty nights and singalongs.

Diving more into the concept of the record, ADAI tells the story of The Lowlife, named Jett, who lives in a place the band christened Sonderland – born from a combination of “Wonderland” and the somewhat obscure word “sonder”, which is the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own, with their own ambitions and worries. “It’s that strange existential realization that you are not the entire world,” explains singer Ben Barlow. “Everyone around you feels and lives the same way that you do. You’re just an extra in their story.”

Themes of disconnection, existential confusion, and the search for meaning stream through ADAI, loner Jett feels disillusioned until he meets, and falls in love with, a girl named Alice. Which doesn’t come without its own challenges, and so the listener gets to hear both sides of the story, and is being taken on a journey throughout the record.

“Modern music is so much based around ‘the single’ and writing a record isn’t held in nearly the same regard as it used to be.” Barlow explains.  “All Distortions Are Intentional presents a whole story, where there is meaning from every angle of it,” the singer continues. “All of our records have their themes, but I wanted to create characters, scenes, a world, and have it mean something in the real world, too.”

On the first half of the record, classic Neck Deep sounds are mixed with huge poppy hooks, catapulting the band into arena-sized venues without a doubt. Sonderland, Lowlife and When You Know are perfect examples of the added dose of catchy AF choruses that practically beg to be shouted out loud.

Quarry comes just in time for a little breather. The emo-rap track works like a charm as an interlude with its 90 seconds, it signifies Jett at his lowest point in a poignant way infused with dark and moody backdrops.

But as Fall Out Boy once said, “before it gets brighter, the darkness gets bigger” and that’s what the path follows after the low points of Quarry, Sick Joke and Empty House. With Little Dove melodically ADAI feels a lot lighter on the surface, yet lyrically the story still portraits a conflicted individual that wants to see better days but isn’t quite there.

Until I Revolve (Around You) hits with it’s roaring guitars and anthemic vocals. It marks the declaration of love to Alice and the conclusion of Lowlife’s story that is followed only by Pushing Daisies, the album’s closing track. “I’m sure you can see that I’m doing much better, me and my girl with the world all figured out” Barlow belts out in a rallying cry for Lowlife and his still existing discontent for the world, bringing the album full circle, but in a way that has shown character growth. Lowlife has accepted that the world is how it but that it is bearable with Alice by his side.

All Distortions Are Intentional finishes on Barlow shouting “Fuck society, fuck your politics, fuck yourself and fuck the way it is” at the top of his lungs, leading into a fazed out fuzzy guitar riff and taking them right back to their punk roots.

On ADAI, Neck Deep have not only grown as a band, they have also created a bold statement that will see them playing huge shows and headlining festivals once we get back to doing all that fun live music stuff. But until then, we strongly recommend you turn ADAI up loud, follow the story of Lowlife, and be in awe about the journey Neck Deep have taken to get to this place.

“Everyone wants to be seen as good at what they do, as creative, interesting, ambitious,” Ben says; “That’s what we wanted, for people to see that we are more than just some guys in a band. We truly lived and breathed this album, and wove unique perspectives, storytelling, and ideas into its fabric. We have crafted a sound that is ours, it is totally, unapologetically Neck Deep.”