Four albums in and staring down the barrel of a decade doing this soonish, Neck Deep could be forgiven for feeling like it might be time to start growing up and leaving the sophomoric trappings of youth behind them. Or to put it more bluntly, this is when most bands become boring, slow down and fiddle with winning formulas in the name of experimentation. It happens, even with the best of intentions and almost always sucks, but credit to the Wrexham lads for finding a way of moving the needle without losing the plot, or any of the qualities that make them one of the UK’s increasingly beloved rock acts.
All Distortions Are Intentional – the band’s fourth record and first to feature frontman Ben Barlow’s brother and long-time, behind-the-scenes contributor Seb as a full-time member – is a joyous missive that rises like a rocket, lighting up the sky with fresh and unexpected explosions on each track. It’s huge, frankly. As the songs scurry off on conceptual tangents, they relay the tale of protagonist Jett’s lovelorn and existential travels through the make-believe world of Sonderland. You can go as deep as you like with that, or you can admire the surface sheen, but whatever level of input preferred, there is much to be gained. The opening rush of Sonderland, Fall, Lowlife, Telling Stories and When You Know offer a lesson in dynamics, switching seamlessly between high-octane yet tuneful bursts and holding back to let the melodies really breathe. Quarry operates like a sonic dam, grinding into a moody, hazy slouch before the more contemplative second half of the record explores all sorts of multifaceted pop jams with impressive maturity.