From “Sweater Weather” to “Wires” and a reworked “Female Robbery”, I’ve spent some time covering these LA gentlemen called The Neighbourhood. They’ve had some great singles, they’ve got an awesome logo, and they live their lives in black and white. It’s taken a long time, been a long wait, but I Love You. finally arrived in our eardrums via a premiere on Rolling Stone.
I spent some time with it and have been debating on sharing my thoughts. I say debated because in this business there are plenty of critics. One need only check the aforementioned Rolling Stone or countless other publications, online or off, to find a dissenting opinion about virtually anyone. If you want to hate it, you’ll find someone to hate it with. If you love it, you’re better off turning to folks like myself. I pride myself on posting only the things I love – after all, you’re looking for some great new artists and I’m no professional journalist – why would you read my negative review over an established organization’s?
Today, I’m breaking that rule when it comes to this new LP by The Neighbourhood.
My instinct tells me to move past it and let it go, just like I do countless other albums and singles I receive in the Sirens inbox…but, to be honest, this is a little different. I’ve loved some of the singles that The Neighbourhood have released. They dropped I’m Sorry… on the same day as the birth of my second child and I still put it up on the site that very day – I drove that little boy home listening to that EP a few days later. Several of the new songs included here are just not where I thought these guys were going with this thing. Don’t get me wrong – there are some great new tracks. There’s also some I feel the band will wish they left on the cutting room floor.
I guess I began falling out of love with the band upon the release of “Let It Go” and it’s accompanying video – it sort of began to become clear to me that the sunny sound that was so great on “Sweater Weather”, as well as the ridiculously catchy (though darker) “Wires” were merely evolutionary markers into a darker sound that was more indulgent than substantive. The black and white photos, videos, and general aesthetic, the repetitive subject matter, it dug it’s heels into my heart a bit. I listened to “Let It Go” and “A Little Death” sparingly, if at all after the time I spent with them before posting them up. I liked them at the time but they weren’t resonating with me long term the way previous tracks had.
Flash forward to now. I Love You. drops on April 23rd and you can surely expect more of the same sound you loved from the Cali group. Unfortunately, you’ll also find them going a much more generic route. Way more of it. On this release what could have once been construed as vague lyricism or miscellaneous California references/lifstyle have now been combined with a few unfortunate tracks showcasing straight from the late 90’s/early 00’s pop punk and rock lyrics that you wrote on your notebooks in history class.
My guess is this will make most of you cringe, much like it did myself. I guess this should be no surprise for me. After all, The Neighbourhood are a full on mainstream engine that was pushed into high gear by blogs like my own. That’s a dirty word for some I know, but I don’t throw it about as a condemnation. No sir/ma’am. My two favorite bands are Arctic Monkeys and U2 and they are as mainstream as it comes. The difference is they never stooped to a level below their capabilities in order to fulfill a number. I’m not certain I can say the same about the entirety of this new The Neighbourhood LP. Certainly not the first few tracks.
“How” begins with promise and an interesting take on that now familiar dark-indie-hop slant, but unfortunately they lost me when talking about getting chewed up, spit out, and pissed on. These dudes really like their gloom and doom. “Afraid” features a hook with choice lyrics such as “It hurts but I won’t fight you/you suck anyway/you make me wanna die” among other things. Real deep. You’ll find that signature sound that is so dreamy and pleasing, for sure. It’s still there. “Afraid” has some excellent production. Those sweet beats and sounds echo out as grand as ever – unfortunately, for my dollar, the total package has been compromised by this generic, least common denominator wordplay. I question whether these first two tracks were legitimately penned by Jesse Rutherford/The Neighbourhood or if this was simply caving to label pressure. Either way, it’s a total disappointment after the promise of the first few releases in The Neighbourhood’s repertoire.
“Everybody’s Watching Me” feels very formulaic compared to some of the other tracks, particularly in the sound department when compared to the two tracks before it. If you combined the lyrics of “Everybody’s Watching Me” with the production of “Afraid” you’d have an awesome track…but unfortunately they are two halves of a whole. That said, it’s definitely got a radio ready tinge to it and new fans will likely see no problem with it’s construction. “Alleyways” is a fresh take on The Neighbourhood sound, very bass heavy and something of a breathe of fresh air to be honest. I would not dare to call it “lighter”, but it’s straightforward rhythm and vocal delivery stands starkly against the dread-and-gloom tinged majority of I Love You.
The next new track you’ll encounter is “W.D.Y.W.F.M” with it’s cinematic style opening and catchy-as-hell chorus. This track is a bit more of a Rutherford vocal vehicle than a lot of this LP – as such it’s particularly interesting to me. I’ll admit I love it – it’s easily stomps on “A Little Death” (the previous title holder) as the catchiest release by the band since “Sweater Weather”. It’s basically The Neighbourhood dipped in a heavy dose of pop – the chorus outro in particular – but damn if it doesn’t resonate with my headphones. If anything good were to come of this record, hopefully folks will fall in love with this track. “Flawless” is the slow burner of I Love You., with sizzling guitar tones ringing in and out and a sparse beat for you to nod your head to. It’s got as much R&B meets rock flavor as you’re gonna find in The Neighbourhood’s sound.
Next to last, “Staying Up” is kind of the band’s first stab at a truly anthemic track. There’s a greater emphasis on the vocals of Rutherford here again, with a sparse then soaring soundscape backing his silky vocals. It could be said that it’s a bit of a halfway shot at said anthem, but it’s unclear to me if this was intentional or just how it turned out. I’m still up in the air on album closer “Float” – I don’t really know what to think about it. It’s a microcosm of what makes I Love You. so frustrating for me. The Neighbourhood is a great concept – a beautiful wedding of sounds and amazing vocals that should easily surpass anything else that drops in 2013. Unfortunately, it seems to be exactly that – a concept – one that involved too many chiefs and not enough Indians, or too much influence and style and not enough soul.
Comparing this release to the promise found on I’m Sorry… is depressing for me. I have never written a negative review about anything on this website. I couldn’t let this pass, though. I pinned my hopes too close to my heart on this one and as such I’m possibly judging this album more harshly than I may have if it were just another run of the mill submission. My belief is that even with just two or three of these tracks scrapped for some of the ones released on previous EPs (“Wires”, “A Little Death”, “Baby Came Home” to name a few) this LP would be much improved. I’ll admit, the emo-by-numbers lyricism of “How” and “Afraid” tainted my take on this album from the get-go. Unfortunately, a duck is a duck, even when it’s a band you love.
There are great tracks to be had here. “W.D.Y.W.F.M”, “Alleyways”, and “Flawless” are all certifiable goodies to add to your The Neighbourhood collection. Ultimately, the only other great tracks to be found here are the ones you already know and as such I can’t really recommend this album. If you’re looking for radio ready jams to pop on with no concern about any kind of substance, though, grab this thing. Alternatively, you could just hit up the latest Fall Out Boy album. There’s not a lot of difference, minus the fact that one is what you expected and the other is not.
Despite my disappointment, I’ll still rock my upside down house shirt and not hang my head. In the mean time, I suppose I’ll wait for a full release from Sir Sly and hope for better.
You can purchase I Love You. via Amazon.
IN FIVE WORDS OR LESS: it hurts but I’ll still buy you
Again, more than five words. This is getting out of hand!