Imagine if Neck Deep hadn’t released “What Did You Expect?” and unknowingly stepped on the path to becoming one of the most recognizable faces in pop punk. Imagine if the five boys hadn’t taken music seriously after the success of their first album. Where would we be without the band’s initial EP and three LPs, all offering simultaneously distinct and irreplaceable vibes that hold a special place in everyone’s heart?

It’s simple: we wouldn’t be who we are right now. They’ve given us everything in such a short time.

Neck Deep doesn’t even know the half of it, either. The boys may have pursued music full-time because they found acclaim in a hurry, but after a quick delve into every album’s subject matter, it’s easy to see just how cathartic it is for them — and listeners.

Whether it’s the relatably angsty and nostalgic feelings evoked via Life’s Not Out to Get You, the band’s most complete project to date, the heaviness of its earlier discography or the calmer tones of its recent work, each album has something to offer in terms of relief. This means the band is incredibly consistent, but it should be noted that despite having good track after good track, Neck Deep has some that are simply better than others, so it’s time to rank them all.

59. “All Hype, No Heart” (Rain in July / A History of Bad Decisions EP)

Ah, yes, taking a 42-second track, already too short, and wasting the first few seconds of it by saying, “What you looking at, butthead?” The rest of the song is well said — frontman Ben Barlow is calling out people who just follow what everyone else is doing and don’t express individuality — but the unnecessary beginning and pure chaos of the production ruin it.

58. “Say What You Want” (Wishful Thinking)

The vocal layering near the end isn’t well executed at all, and it’s basically 61 seconds that serve as an unneeded filler track to change the pacing of the album.

57. “Quarry” (All Distortions Are Intentional)

Honestly, it’s a vibe. Barlow sounds so tranquil, and the atmospheric production could put anyone at ease, but it’s 86 seconds that offer little substance compared to the rest of the band’s discography.

56. “Where Do We Go When We Go” (The Peace and the Panic)

The Peace and the Panic as a whole was a huge departure from the immense aggression of prior albums, but the closer, “Where Do We Go When We Go,” just doesn’t fit. The children singing the intro and eventual chorus is a bit off-putting, and though the message is sad but true, it all seems off — yet still subtly bangs.

55. “Sweet Nothings” (Wishful Thinking)

This is a cute love song from Barlow to his girlfriend, which makes it odd that it’s approached so forcefully. The roaring guitars and in-your-face drums simply don’t pair well with the endearing message.

54. “Lowlife” (All Distortions Are Intentional)

Barlow sounds sublime, but the verses don’t transition well into each other, especially the chorus. Some of the lyrics — “Perfectly clean, I’m drinking coffee on a trampoline” — are just perplexing, too.

53. “What Did You Expect?” (Rain in July / A History of Bad Decisions EP)

Since this is the song that started it all, fans are probably seething at how low it’s ranked. The version on Wishful Thinking is an improvement, but this song about being cheated on is just chaotic, perhaps purposefully so. Barlow just doesn’t sound right — almost muted, maybe because of poor recording methods — and that’s exactly what isn’t needed for a heated song like this.

52. “Critical Mistake” (The Peace and the Panic)

The intro from Laura Whiteside is hilarious, and the song is a bop in its own right, but it just doesn’t have a wow factor to it. It sounds like any band could’ve made this, and Neck Deep is too exceptional to be known for songs like this.

51. “Can’t Kick Up the Roots” (Life’s Not Out to Get You)

You’re probably thinking: why is this uplifting jam ranked so low? It’s positioning in the album doesn’t make sense, and it’s a bit too repetitive. Nonetheless, it’s a go-to song for when you need a reminder of how important your hometown really is in shaping you.

50. “Blank Pages” (Wishful Thinking)

The beat change in the bridge is stellar and leads to an incredible ending, but the road getting there is rough. Even for a heavier song, the instrumentation is a little overwhelming. The more you focus on the guitars and drums, the more chaotic they seem, and that shouldn’t happen.

49. “Pushing Daisies” (All Distortions Are Intentional)

This concept album ends with the acceptance that we’re all going to die someday and we can’t make a difference in the world, no matter how hard we try. Talk about bringing down the mood. Barlow sounds great, but it’s a disappointing ending to a fabulous album.

48. “Tables Turned” (Rain in July / A History of Bad Decisions EP)

With no chorus, it seems like it’s never going to end. The pacing increases with each verse, and it’s a lot to digest at times, but the lyrics about finally getting over a past relationship are too relatable.

47. “Don’t Wait (feat. Sam Carter)” (The Peace and the Panic)

While the boys’ message here is to say you can’t trust anyone or any news, they’re spreading lies themselves. It’s important to find credible media, but there are still companies that compose truthful journalism, so these lies are only furthering the problem. Sam Carter’s screaming and verse steal the show.

46. “Smooth Seas Don’t Make Good Sailors” (Life’s Not Out to Get You)

Finally, some good advice: your outlook on the world impacts how you see it, so alter your view for a better outcome. The lyrics are top tier, and the guitars are infectious.

45. “I Revolve (Around You)” (All Distortions Are Intentional)

Though the meaning is immensely cute, the bridge is aggravatingly repetitive.

44. “Kick It” (Rain in July / A History of Bad Decisions)

That guitar line is everything. This is 95 seconds that sonically shouldn’t be modified at all, but it needs to be longer and provide more lyrical substance.

43. “Crushing Grief (No Remedy)” (Wishful Thinking)

Barlow is letting it all out to a girl who cheated on him, and while the insanely fast tempo is commendable, it’s hard to keep up.

42. “Worth It” (The Peace and and the B Sides)

Barlow wants to be with this girl, but he’s noticed the toxicity from her before, and he’s starting to reconsider if it’s a good idea. Short answer: no, it’s not. It’s an all-too-relatable track about contemplating your worth, and it’s something everyone should examine amid a serious relationship.

41. “The Beach is for Lovers (Not Lonely Losers)” (Life’s Not Out to Get You)

Barlow can’t help but think about all the time he’s wasted and regret, even though there’s nothing he can do about it now. That guitar line really does give beach vibes, and it’s a nice road trip jam.

40. “Beautiful Madness” (The Peace and and the B Sides)

Despite all of the chaos he’s experienced with her, Barlow can’t imagine life without his girl — because she seemingly makes his world complete. The drums are reminiscent of the band’s earlier days, and it’s a nice change of pace from the album’s A side.

39. “Staircase Wit” (Wishful Thinking)

Behind mesmerizing guitar riffs and drum patterns, Barlow admits to his ex she should’ve spared him by never coming into his life in the first place. He says everything we wish we could say to our toxic exes, and for that, Barlow deserves some praise.

38. “Threat Level Midnight” (Life’s Not Out to Get You)

Is the title a reference to the thrilling Threat Level Midnight film that Michael Scott made on The Office? Hopefully. The song itself is about how Barlow constantly finds himself struggling with his demons and intrusive thoughts, and it’s well executed, but the beginning sounds a lot like the better “Gold Steps.”

37. “A Part of Me (feat. *Laura Whiteside)” (Rain in July / A History of Bad Decisions EP)

That acoustic guitar is so warm and welcoming, and Whitside sounds lovely. Barlow, however, sounds flat-out bad, especially when he says “I’m so unappealing” (does he know his vocals here are, too?) It’s a cute love song, but Barlow should’ve cleared his throat a little and re-recorded.

36. “Sick Joke” (All Distortions Are Intentional)

As COVID-19 cases continue to surge, the line “Sometimes I wonder if life is some sick joke” has never resonated more. Neck Deep, especially with that calming post-chorus, is urging us to embrace the good times while we have them, and it’s a well-needed reminder.

35. “The Grand Delusion” (The Peace and the Panic)

Barlow condenses to a T what it’s like to have anxiety on “The Grand Delusion.” The instrumentation doesn’t necessarily sound like Neck Deep — definitely calmer, even for this lighter album — but it works. 

34. “Little Dove” (All Distortions Are Intentional)

Barlow wants to go away from present-day society, where everyone isn’t constantly online and seeking attention. Neck Deep has never done anything like “Little Dove” before, but it makes the pacifying guitar, gorgeous harmonies and otherworldly strings its own.

33. “Up In Smoke” (Rain in July / A History of Bad Decisions EP)

Do you feel like even the closest people in your life don’t understand you? Barlow does. After realizing he’s disappointed his parents, he’s written them an open letter that not only delineates how sorry he is, but how he wishes they’d understand from his view, too. The heaviness is fitting for how frustrated he is.

32. “Kali Ma” (Life’s Not Out to Get You)

A reference to *Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, “Kali Ma” outlines how Barlow feels knowing everything he does now is publicized, which in turn causes him anxiety. That roaring guitar next to the ending with A Day To Remember’s Jeremy McKinnon is dazzling.

31. “19 Seventy Sumthin’” (The Peace and the Panic)

Barlow tells the story of how his parents fell in love. It’s a sweet, cheery tale — before switching moods completely, displaying how it felt after Barlow’s dad endured a heart attack and passed away. Barlow promises he will watch over his mother, and if it’s not the lyrics that do it, the emotional guitars will bring tears to your eyes.

30. “Rock Bottom” (Life’s Not Out to Get You)

Though his friends had been telling him it endlessly, Barlow has finally realized his ex treated him like hot garbage. Regardless, he can’t help but miss her. We all unfortunately have experienced toxic people who we can’t resist like that. The guitar lick is too good. 

29. “Fall” (All Distortions Are Intentional)

“Fall,” despite its bridge that hits too close to home, is a feel-good track that perfectly embodies the feeling of knowing the love you’re experiencing will last in the long run. The guitars from *Matt West and Sam Bowden are relaxing yet stimulating.

28. “Head To the Ground” (Rain in July / A History of Bad Decisions EP)

When Barlow doesn’t push it with his vocals, he and a guitar are all we need. This is the epitome of that. As he’s falling in love, Barlow is also scared of ruining what seems to be blossoming into the relationship of a lifetime. It’s just a mood.

27. “Happy Judgement Day” (The Peace and the Panic)

As the world continues to spiral out of control, Neck Deep is watching — but not staying silent about it. It seems like the end times are here and, next to a roaring guitar riff, Barlow just wants to hop off and go elsewhere. If only Neck Deep knew just how much worse it was going to get.

26. “Heavy Lies” (The Peace and the Panic)

Despite what this girl is hearing from others, Barlow wants her to hear directly from him that he wants no one but her. He’s been hurt before, and though he’s scared, he’s ready to jump into this new, exciting relationship with her. The breakdown at the end is glorious.

25. “Empty House” (All Distortions Are Intentional)

The acoustic guitar and overall mood of this track are reminiscent of “A Part of Me,” but Barlow’s vocals are thankfully refined, and it has a much more hopeful undertone. Though the couple finds themselves questioning things, at the end of the day, they know their love outlasts any complications — which is all that really matters.

24. “Serpents” (Life’s Not Out to Get You)

Barlow has been tormented so much by a girl who played with his emotions that he only sees her as a snake now. The instrumentation is much more mellow than Neck Deep fans had been used to at this time, and we’re all here for it. That bass from *Seb Barlow right after the chorus is immaculate.

23. “Damsel In Distress” (Wishful Thinking)

“Damsel In Distress” delivers a roaring guitar line as it delineates the story of how a boring party turns interesting when a girl who needs saving shows up. Dani Washington is a machine on those drums.

22. “She’s a God” (single)

The only religion Barlow believes in is his angelic girlfriend. As he watches her do everyday tasks — get dressed and do her hair — he can’t help but be in awe of her beauty. Goals. It just sounds like a pop punk hit.

21. “When You Know” (All Distortions Are Intentional)

The feel-good guitars from Bowden and West and smooth drumming from Washington help emphasize how even when you’re in the wrong place, the right person can still make you feel at home. For Barlow, that’s how his girlfriend always makes him feel. It’s a feel-good banger.

20. “Over and Over” (Rain in July / A History of Bad Decisions EP)

Barlow wants to be more with this girl, and even though she keeps rejecting him, he can’t help but try again. The emotion is evident from Barlow’s first breath, and the heaviness is well executed.

19. “Telling Stories” (All Distortions Are Intentional)

Surrounded by roaring guitars, Barlow feels as if he has no one and finds himself comparing his life to that of those around him. He finally gives himself the best advice he could: stop wasting time, and go out and do something to make your life unique. With lyrics like “Have you ever felt lost in a window, desperate to be loved and just be thrown out?” how could you not be enthralled? 

18. “Citizens of Earth” (Life’s Not Out to Get You)

A great pump-up song sonically, “Citizens of Earth” is telling Gen Z to go out and make a difference so the current political turmoil doesn’t get even worse. The way the fiery guitars bounce off Barlow’s vocals is priceless.

17. “Zoltar Speaks” (Wishful Thinking)

Barlow doesn’t know what to believe anymore, especially concerning mainstream media. The guitars and drums are blaring, next to some of Barlow’s best vocals up to that point. The key change in the last rendition of the chorus isn’t something we knew we needed until we got it. 

16. “Wish You Were Here” (The Peace and the Panic)

Barlow and former bassist Fil Thorpe-Evans both lost their fathers, so “Wish You Were Here” is their ode to them. They want to be selfish, hearing that “they’re in a better place” — though Barlow doesn’t believe in an afterlife — but wanting them to be back with them instead. The desolate acoustic guitar and keys set the somber mood perfectly.

15. “Lime St.” (Life’s Not Out to Get You)

Though Barlow knows he’s not the greatest boyfriend, he has recognized his girlfriend is everything he could ever want and more. Since he hasn’t seen her for a while because of touring, he just wants to say thanks for always being his savior. The fadeout of the guitar at the end is pure bliss.

14. “Silver Lining” (Rain in July / A History of Bad Decisions EP)

Barlow and a girl spend a drunken night together, and though he already had feelings for her, she didn’t and still doesn’t. After they finally cut ties, though, she’s suddenly interested. The lyrics “You always want what you can’t get / I always want what I’ll regret” sums it up well. That masterful guitar lick at the beginning is incredible.

13. “Losing Teeth” (Wishful Thinking)

“Losing Teeth” is a track about realizing adulthood is closer than ever and how now or never is the time to take risks. Guided by robust bass and guitar lines, Barlow shares how these adventures, which were seemingly in the midst of a summer romance, truly were high risk, high reward. That guitar will echo in your mind for days on end.

12. “Motion Sickness” (The Peace and the Panic)

“Motion Sickness” was written when just about everything changed for the boys: they gained mass popularity and lost loved ones, among other things. This is a reminder to appreciate everything in your life while you have it, and Barlow’s vocals are as crisp as ever.

11. “What Took You So Long” (All Distortions Are Intentional)

When you finally meet the right person, whether that be a lifelong friend or a lover, it’s easy to wonder why the universe didn’t bring them to you sooner, and that’s exactly what Barlow is thinking about his girlfriend here. Soothing guitars help accentuate Barlow’s tender vocals as he delivers some of the band’s cutest lyrics to date: “Before you, I could not see how I would coincide with the big world and such little time / I was not me until I discovered you.” A love song for the ages. 

10. “Parachute” (The Peace and the Panic)

After experiencing hardship after hardship, Barlow just wants to focus all of his energy on his relationship. He wants to be there for her through it all and all pick her back up, dusting her shoes off along the way. The guitars are lighter, and it’s a subtle banger.

9. “I Couldn’t Wait to Leave 6 Months Ago” (Rain in July / A History of Bad Decisions EP)

Barlow didn’t know if going to college was right for him. Regardless, he knows he will find his path (and now, as a successful musician, he knows his initial doubts were correct).That bass is absolutely nasty. 

8. “Growing Pains” (Wishful Thinking)

Barlow is telling his significant other he’ll be there through both her good moments and rough patches. Backed by intricate guitar shredding, he even promises to take some of the load just so she knows he’ll never leave her: “Don’t bear the weight of the world on your shoulders / It’s not too heavy / I’ll break my back, so you can feel like someone’s on your side.” Goals.

7. “Sonderland” (All Distortions Are Intentional)

Barlow is feeling particularly angsty, pondering whether his life is destined to get better or not: “Welcome to my dark despair / Everyone here is a nightmare / As they keep talking in their sleep, I am wondering if it surely gets better than this.” “Sonderland” is the epitome of why All Distortions Are Intentional is the band’s best album yet: it’s different, but it still maintains that feel-good yet simultaneously aggressive sound that makes Neck Deep so special. 

6. “Gold Steps” (Life’s Not Out to Get You)

This is possibly the pop punk anthem of the millennium. Though life inevitably brings us chaos, it’s nothing we can’t overcome — as long as you remain positive: “And life’s not out to get you, despite the things you’ve been through / ’Cause what you give is what you get, and it doesn’t make sense to make do.” Well said.

5. “I Hope This Comes Back to Haunt You” (Life’s Not Out to Get You)

Barlow is telling the girl who hurt him that he isn’t wishing her well, and he hopes she experiences the same type of heartbreak. However, it ends with an uplifting message for himself and for anyone listening: “Wake up; the world seems bright out today / Life goes on, and things they change / Hands up if you’ve been left bruised and broken / “I’ll be OK,” say I’ll be OK.” Everyone needs to hear that sometimes.

4. “December” (Life’s Not Out to Get You)

This is basically the complete opposite of “I Hope This Comes Back to Haunt You,” as Barlow wishes his ex a happy road ahead with someone who can give her the world. He knows he ruined his chance, so he hopes she can get what she deserves. The acoustic guitar and subtle strings are otherworldly.

3. “Mileage” (Wishful Thinking)

“Mileage” asks the tough question most people are scared to hear: How can you be sure life is always going to be fine? With an enthralling guitar line, Barlow ponders on how much everything has changed since the band earned attention. By the end, Barlow realizes this apprehension will pass as long as he chooses to be optimistic: “And you will find a peace of mind underneath the doubt / The light will dim, and we will grow, but we won’t burn out.” It’s incredibly relatable and catchy.

2. “Candour” (Wishful Thinking)

“Candour” closes the album in a heartbreaking fashion, drawing inspiration from Barlow’s dad, who was experiencing health problems at the time and died in 2016. The track perfectly blends drums and violins with Barlow’s blatantly emotional vocals as he attempts to communicate how much of a role model his dad was. He tells his dad how grateful he is to be blessed with him during their short yet impactful time together. It’s a tear-jerker, so prepare the tissues.

1. “In Bloom” (The Peace and the Panic)

Neck Deep’s most popular song, “In Bloom,” rightfully earned its No. 1 rank. Though he’s been going through it for months, Barlow can’t stop his demons from still getting to him. He confronts his girlfriend, pleading for her to let him heal the only way he knows how — without pressure and on his own — so their relationship can blossom, too. The guitar riff is one of the most pacifying ever written, and it’s a song that suits every mood.

@bre_offenberger

bo844517@ohio.edu