Following weeks of teasing new music on their various social media outlets and a string of shows in Los Angeles and New York, The Neighbourhood finally released a five-track EP, titled Hard, on Sept. 22. The California-based alternative group followed up its sophomore album, Wiped Out!, with a slight departure from its beach rock vibe in favor of a more diverse sound.
The EP opens with “Roll Call,” 4:12 of haunting angst. The beat of the song is almost an extension of their unconventionally over-synthetic “Ferrari” from Wiped Out!, but front man Jesse Rutherford’s voice takes on a more mature and refined tone in this song. The chorus suggests an identity crisis in face of pressure to conform as the chorus repeats the lines, “I want to walk like me / I want to talk like me.” This appears to be a reoccurring theme in much of their works, but this time around the articulation is less eloquent than its predecessors. The bluntness of the lyrics mixed with the images of soldiers makes for an intense and dark opening.
The second and third tracks, “You Get Me So High” and “Noise” are fine for album fillers, but not so effective in getting listeners excited for the possibility of a new album. “You Get Me So High” has a fast hip-hop inspired beat and Rutherford employs the same rap-like vocals that carried The Neighbourhood’s early work, like “West Coast” and “No Grey” from The Love Collection EP. The chorus, which mostly simply repeats “high all the time” leaves listeners feeling underwhelmed. While catchy, the comparison of love to drugs is trite and overdone. Meanwhile, “Noise” is an entirely different animal. Its harsh guitar strums and drum paired with Rutherford’s howling notes at the onset emulate the sound of Radiohead and other ’90s punk bands. Despite the similarity of sound, The Neighbourhood falls short of a Radiohead or Nirvana hit due to the serious lack of clever and meaningful lyrics. The song’s message is essentially a reiteration of that of “Roll Call,” as Rutherford repeats “I don’t want to be like you.” Furthermore, both end in the eccentric front man delivering an auto-tuned and slow vocal, devoid of the loud instrumentals found in the body of the songs.
“24/7” takes on a different personality than the often angsty tracks produced by the group. Its fast, techno-pop beat pairs well with the traditional Neighborhood sound of long guitar strums during the chorus. The lyrics describe a certain giddiness of wanting to spend all of one’s time talking to a new love interest. The song includes a Weeknd-like breakdown toward the end as the fast-paced beat slows and Rutherford’s voice becomes more distant. Perhaps this catering to current and more conventional tastes is the band’s attempt at a radio hit to match the success of the ever-popular “Sweater Weather” from its first album. Cleverly, clock ticks end the short but potential hit song.
If listeners can manage to get past the Tumblr-angst-filled song title, the height of the EP is reached by the final track, “Sadderdaze.” The song opens with the lone acoustic guitar that is prevalent in the slower, calmer songs of previous albums, but progresses to a completely different symphony-like sound in the chorus. Pairing the classical violin with a harmonious choir for the chorus, The Neighbourhood imitates the strategy behind Cage The Elephant’s most recent release, Unpeeled, in which classical elements of music are used to give new life to otherwise conventional alternative music. This approach certainly works to the advantage of the group. The trembling violin and striking piano create a calming but dramatic exit for the short EP, leaving listeners with a fresh perspective on The Neighbourhood.
While the short EP certainly presents a new sound for The Neighbourhood, most of the tracks fall short in achieving the refreshing quality of I Love You. and Wiped Out!. The overall slow, dragging tempo of the EP is tiring and all too reminiscent of their previous work. Having failed to produce the same amount of attention during live shows and at music festivals that their alternative counterparts, like The xx and Lorde, it is clear that The Neighbourhood will have to produce a new album in addition to this EP in order to maintain and grow their fan base.
Featured Image by Columbia Records