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Neck. From left to Right: Jeff Martin, Kevin Berger & Johnny Nash. Photo by Andrew Carver.

Review: Neck’s Hate to Read is punk rock in its purest form

By Nneka Nnagbo on May 13, 2016

“Punk Rock Is Not Dead” should have been the debut album title of local pop-punk band, Neck. Their debut album, Hate to Read is a concise 24 track compilation consisting of one minute, head-banging, energetic rippers with heavy doses of raw, punk-rock nostalgia.   

‘Loud and fast’ is the basic musical approach for punk and the band meets both criteria. Their raw sound is reminiscent of the bare musical arrangements of 1960’s garage rock and the wild and rebellious sound of rock n’ roll that characterized the 70’s. The most obvious reference points are first-generation punk rock acts like The Ramones, Black Flag, and The Clash, all with their bombastic verve that draws you in, and Neck have undoubtedly found a comfortable seat somewhere in the middle.

The band is keen on blasting short, simple, sublime pop songs over top heavy guitar and it works!

hatetoreadHate to Read gets right to the point with its combination of short and fast-paced songs, with hard-edged melodies and singing styles, stripped-down instrumentation, and simple, often funny and cheesy-on-purpose, lyrics. The band is constantly testing the flexibility of their sound throughout the 24-track album.

“Gimme the goods but don’t repeat your riff over and over” Says Neck frontman Jeff Martins. “That’s where the idea of a short song comes in. If you think you have a great riff, use it sparingly, don’t wear out its welcome! Trim it free of clutter and excess repetition then move on to the next song.”

Neck lays all of their cards on the table immediately with the rhythmically revved-up openers “Chop You Up” and “Pull the Rug” both opening with a low-pitched buzz-saw guitar then switching to the group’s amped-up punk throttle to finish out the songs.

This is followed by one of the album’s most made-for-radio tracks. “Kelly Rippa / I Don’t Go to the Movies” is a headbanger: clean vocals and tight, churning guitar and not one actual mention of Kelly Rippa.

The trio toys with different drum patterns in “Hipster beard” and “Gang leader” with hard-driving and catchy choruses.

The most surprising moments of the record come in the latter half of the album with the loud verse/louder chorus dynamic. The band doesn’t skimp on catchy hooks on “Get Used to It,” “Do What I,” and “Tire Shredding” (my personal favourite)  proving that even the popiest songs can be artful and pack a punch.

When asked about the band’s vision behind making “the one minute song”, Martins says “The idea to keep it short is a two sided coin for us. On one hand, we start complaining to each other if a new song idea goes past 1.5 minutes. The other side of things is the general audience.

Today, more than ever we all look to find information, music, art, news so much faster than, say, 20 years ago we get bored. Text messaging has become the most used form of communicating outside of the workplace. Messages are generally short and to the point. We’re always in a rush and have to know everything fast.”

Ultimately, despite the album consisting almost solely of blunt songs with mildly similar chord progressions, the band is keen on blasting short, simple, sublime pop songs over top heavy guitar and it works!

“It works for us and we’re sticking to this approach in general. One day we might try writing an epic two [minute] song but don’t hold your breath!”

So, herein lies a large part of Neck’s charm: they make punk music with fast-paced, non-readers in mind; with short-attention-span song lengths, blunt guitar riffs, and unembellished lyrics. One album in and they’re just getting warmed up; in the process, they’ve tapped the essence of punk music in its purest form.

Neck play House of Targ on Thursday May 19, 2016 as part of a pre Pouzza Fest party with Chloroform, School Damage, Raging Nathans and The Slow Death. Cover is $8. Doors at 9pm. Follow them on Facebook and Bandcamp.