Generally, when pop-punk bands find themselves the better part of a decade in the game, they're presented with few viable paths. They can keep on doing the same old same old, singing stories of escaping their dead-end towns despite the fact they hauled ass at the very first opportunity; they can succumb to those worries that they 'shouldn't really be doing this kind of thing at this age' and sign up for the dreaded desk job; or, they can do - insert doomed echo effect here - a concept album.
Like so many before them, it's this final route which Neck Deep have taken with 'All Distortions Are Intentional'. In an attempt to mature, they've paid down the deposit on their own make-believe world, Sonderland. Based around the story of hopeless loner Jett and his developing, soon all-encompassing romantic infatuation with a girl (there's always a girl, right?) Alice, there's a structure to the record beyond the usual salted sugar spin.
Produced by Matt Squire - previously famed for work with Panic! At The Disco, Avril Lavigne, One Direction and Ariana Grande (!!) - 'All Distortions...' has more than just a shot of pop in its rocks. Scene setting opener 'Sonderland' serves as a slick introduction, while 'Telling Stories' has a pleasingly Mark Hoppus-esque thrust. 'What Took You So Long?' shimmers with a sunshine sparkle - packed with the kind of bright bushy confidence needed to make the word 'significant' work as a compliment rather than a mere statement of fact - but it's closer 'Pushing Daisies' that really shows Neck Deep's development. Infectious and addictive as ever, it's a defiant final statement - a song that understands life exists in the muddy greys.
Edges smoothed, ambition for something with a wider palette realised, 'All Distortions...' never severs ties with what came before, but - for a band who needed to find a way to move forwards and leave the past behind - it certainly tugs on the chord.