The Neighbourhood combines the hip-hop beats of its early EPs, grunge rock lyricism of its debut album I Love You., and airy guitar riffs of Wiped Out! for its synthetic self-titled third album. Having defined its individual sound, the Los Angeles-based band dances through tracks about love, loneliness, and change.
The band released EPs Hard and To Imagine in September 2017 and January 2018 respectively, leaving the alternative rock group with plenty of songs to choose from for the new album. The band fills in the gaps with singles released in anticipation of the album and brand new tracks that give the album a cohesive, yet all too familiar sound.
The opening track “Flowers,” an upbeat song that uses excessive autotune to morph front man Jesse Rutherford’s voice, makes its first appearance on The Neighbourhood. The beat twinkles during the chorus while a hip-hop drum line times chime-like keyboard tones. Rutherford complains, “I’m a rip off, and it turns you on,” repeating the latter phrase to lament his sadistic love affair. The track is underwhelming in comparison to “24/7,” an equally upbeat Hard track masterfully tailored to epitomize the band’s new synthetic sound that makes no appearance on the self-titled LP.
Tracks “Scary Love,” “Sadderdaze,” “You Get Me So High,” and “Stuck With Me” are all borrowed from the predecessor EPs and prove to be some of the best on the album. “Scary Love,” the second track, finds Rutherford and company walking through dangerous alleys while a strobe-lit electric beat illuminates the upbeat lyrics. Rutherford sings “Your love is scaring me / No one has ever cared for me as much / As you do,” during the techno chorus. “Sadderdaze” appears later on the album and finds The Neighbourhood experimenting with classical elements. A beautiful violin mingles with the slow drum beat and sporadic acoustic guitar strums while Rutherford questions “Sadderdaze, why do they keep on using me?”
The Neighbourhood recalls the effortlessly cool sound of its early hip-hop influenced tracks like “West Coast” and “No Grey” for “You Get Me So High.” A fast-paced drum beat and Rutherford’s choppy lyrical delivery during the verses frame the catchy chorus that echoes “High all the time, high all the time / I wanna be high all the time / Would you come with me?” The group closes the album with “Stuck With Me,” a spacey track from To Imagine. Rutherford loops the lyrics “You are stuck with me / So I guess I’ll be sticking with” over a quick synthetic drum beat and Zach Abels’ interwoven electric guitar riff.
“Nervous” and “Void,” both singles from the album, fill in the space between “Scary Love” and “Sadderdaze.” “Nervous” opens with a haunting vocal from Rutherford accompanied by long, wavy guitar strokes and a breaking drum beat. A beat drop filled with heavy bass lines and deeper drum hits ushers in the chorus that cries “You got me nervous to speak / So I just won’t say anything at all.” The Neighbourhood’s “Void” finds Rutherford’s voice off in the distance while ’80s techno notes float through the airy song.
The ’80s vibe carries over into “Softcore,” a hard-hitting pop song with spraying drum vibrations and pulsing bass. The song recalls some of The Neighbourhood’s earlier work, sampling the chord progression from “Wiped Out!,” the title track from its sophomore album that dissolves into a journey through techno beats and echoed lyrics. “Blue” also takes elements from the band’s previous works—the band speeds up the militaristic hard-stop beats of “Roll Call,” a Hard track.
“Revenge,” “Reflections,” and “Too Serious” complete the new material on The Neighbourhood. The band ditches its usual victim role for a powerful retribution track in “Revenge.” Rutherford’s voice twists in and out of autotune while invoking vitality, threatening “Coming for your heart / Every beat, when you sleep” over a quick techno beat. “Reflections” establishes a solid pop appeal with its catchy repetition and rhyme, but stays true to the band’s alternative rock roots with long, waving guitar riffs. The song’s title is telling of its obvious tribute to “Sweater Weather,” the band’s 2013 breakout hit, as it steals the fast drum beat for its chorus. The Neighbourhood opens “Too Serious” with a striking acoustic guitar fueled first verse, a change in tone from the rest of the album’s cold, techy sound. The band quickly falls back into its pattern of discussing depression over hip-hop fused alternative rock beats when the broken record chorus begins “Now I feel like I’m broken.”
The Neighbourhood provides longtime fans with a scrapbook of familiar beats and themes and reinforces its techno hip-hop fusion alternative rock sound on its self-titled LP, but the band’s creative capability is crippled by the distinct sound. Potential hits “Sadderdaze” and “You Get Me So High” blur into a monotonous album and The Neighbourhood fails to capture the California cool of Wiped Out! or relentless angst of I Love You. when defining its sound.
Featured Image by Columbia Records