PLUS: STATE CHAMPS, CREEPER, LIGHT YEARS O2 INSTITUTE, BIRMINGHAM. 01.02.16 HOTTER-THAN-THE-SUN WELSH POP-PUNK HEROES KICK OFF THEIR BIGGEST UK TOUR IN GLORIOUSLY CHAOTIC STYLE
WORDS: PAUL TRAVERS
PHOTOS: TOM MARTIN
IT’S BEEN a long time since the Buzzcocks spliced pop melody and punk power into one glorious sticky mass, but in the intervening decades it’s been a format utterly dominated by bands from across the pond. There have been some great British bands, but never one who looked like smashing the commercial monopoly and really breaking big in the same way blink-182 or New Found Glory did. But how things change. With a Top 10 album under their belts, Neck Deep are the UK’S most likely to, and as they embark on their biggest headlining tour to date, it’s time for Wrexham’s finest to prove their mettle.
First, though, the Neck supports. Light Years might be doing biscuits wrong (“I love your Jammy Dodgers – I’m gonna stick some up my arse,” announces singer Pat Kennedy, somewhat bizarrely) but their take on pop-punk is spot-on. Creeper have elements of both pop and punk but they can’t be pinned down quite so easily. There’s a touch of My Chemical Romance to their goth-tinged infectiousness, and if they feel like throwing in a bit of ’50s rock’n’roll or a big stadium-rock riff, they’re damn well going to.
State Champs bring back the more obvious, formulaic bounce, but they do it supremely well. And as the crowd bounces along and sings back every word to the likes of Secrets and Hard To Please, it feels almost like a double-headliner. At least until the actual headliners come on. “We couldn’t set a literal fire, but this is almost as good,” says Neck Deep frontman Ben Barlow. He’s referring to their flame-themed cartoon backdrop, but it’s not just the stage set that’s on fire tonight. They start at a sprint, and as they lob out melody-bombs like the frantic Losing Teeth and Gold Steps, the place descends into sweat-slicked, good-natured chaos. The energy onstage is matched by the madness on the floor, but it’s not just one volley after another. There’s a dynamic feel to the set, as A Part Of Me, Ben’s solo acoustic rendition of Head To The Ground and an electrified but still restrained December provide a real sense of depth and subtlety.
Can’t Kick Up The Roots turns it back up for the finish, channelling small-town ennui into a huge sing-along triumph and bringing things to a kneetrembling conclusion. Wrexham? Tonight, Neck Deep damn near kill ’em.