Album Review – The Neighbourhood – Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones

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Los Angeles five-piece outfit The Neighbourhood have stuck to their trusty moody, low-tempo rock with a dash of R&B on their fourth and final studio album with Columbia Records. Their Columbia recording contract is coming to an end, and they went out with a bang. Some might know them as a group of pop-rockers who live in black and white with their colossal No. 1 hit, “Sweater Weather,” and the teenage bedroom angst is not going away anytime soon.

Listening to a Neighbourhood album is a thematic experience. On this new release, the Californian quintet maintain those melancholic, sad-boy vibes injected with glittery synths – but there is a twist! Frontman Jesse Rutherford channels his own version of a Ziggy Stardust in a mysterious character he is calling Chip Chrome. Covered in silver paint with a diamond grill smile, his new persona quickly became the new Neighbourhood shtick in anticipation for this LP. Rutherford says that “I don’t want Chip to talk, because Jesse talks enough.” So Chip does the talking on this one. 

The album kicks off with the expected title track “Chip Chrome.” The 28-second sci-fi-esque introduction prepares to take us into an alternate universe, then seamlessly transitions into, “Pretty Boy.” 

As a guest on Jesse Rutherford’s new podcast series, the director of the “Pretty Boy” music video, Ramez Silyan compliments the singer’s delivery of the song. He says that some lyrics are so simple, yet there is a certain way that artists can translate such emotion by not the words they are saying, but how they say it. In this song, Rutherford does just that. He sings, “Even if the earth starts shaking / You’re the only one worth taking, with me / And if it’s all over / I’m taking this moment, with me.” It is a sweet and heartfelt song that holds a lot of sentiment. The lyrical content is generic, but delivery is key. 

Dropping two days before the album release date, “Lost In Translation” has this funky soul feel that is a clear standout in the collection of songs. The Neighbourhood’s last album Hard To Imagine The Neighbourhood Ever Changing was a bit of a white rock band attempt at pop-rap that just did not work. That satirical title is proven wrong with this album. They have changed for the better and “Devil’s Advocate” puts it to the test. Addictive performance drips through the cracks of a groovy drum beat – not to mention the coolest music video released in awhile. 

The band takes another interesting approach with “Hell or High Water” that has a unique country twang, yet also feels like you are sitting at the bottom of Bikini Bottom. The quirky and intriguing “Cherry Flavoured” is arguably the most effective song on the record. Without the lyrics, it is merely a beat on loop but there is an interesting dynamic that pulls you in. In 2013 they said, “Sell your soul, not your whole self” and now Rutherford sings, “I sold my soul a long time ago / I feel like a ghost now” in a song about hating superficial status in a sugar-coated way of living. Have The Neighbourhood changed then? 

Photo by Haley Appell & Lauren Leekley

Just after the album’s halfway point, “The Mono-Tones” is a quick 1-minute interlude. The track is a high-pitched tune that complains about voices that “make too much noise.”  Rutherford described that “The Mono-Tones are the voices in my head that are always there. They can be a bit haunting and keep me up at night, but I trust their taste.” Dark but charming.

After experimenting with an edgier, hip-hop-infused sound in their last project, “BooHoo” follows suit. It is an ironic title for an upbeat song. The sad lyrics are masked with a cool rhythm. Nearing the end, “Silver Lining” and “Tobacco Sunburst” are undoubtedly downers, with an emphasis on lost memories and happier days – ending in true Neighbourhood fashion. 

The whole Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones concept was initially introduced with the release of the album closer, “Middle of Somewhere” in August 2019 when Rutherford showed up to the music video shoot decked out in full chrome regalia. The super-8 video follows Rutherford – sorry, Chip Chrome – wandering around the empty hills of California crying, “I was on the outside looking in / Now I’m on the inside trying to stay / Outside of my head / I need peace of mind.” They end this project with a classic Neighbourhood soft and steady song full of echoes and reverberation. 

As much as Chip Chrome took hold of this project and made it his own, it is still a Neighbourhood record at the end of the day. Jesse Rutherford proves that “I fucking love my boys. We’re real friends – we’re not an industry plant, believe it or not.” They accepted the fact that they will never be able to make another “Sweater Weather, so the reinvention of their alternative rock sound is fairly successful and very much appreciated on this one. 

Considering how much their sound has changed over the years, it still holds the same Neighbourhood flair that we all know and love.

Listen to The Neighbourhood’s new album Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones out now via Columbia Records.

Ryley Remedios

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