Weakly grasping at straws to regain the magic of its early career, alternative rock band The Neighbourhood fails to inspire listeners through the repetitive lyrical themes and awkward incorporation of current musical trends on the group’s self-titled third album.
The Neighbourhood first appeared on the music scene in 2013 with “I Love You.,” an alt-rock album featuring No. 1 charting single “Sweater Weather.” Other early works of The Neighbourhood include “#000000 & #FFFFFF,” a project that was released for free in 2014. These early sounds were cohesive and amassed a following of “Hoodlums,” a term fans call themselves. Five years later, however, this fan base is dwindling –– the group’s third album has reached only No. 61 on the United States Billboard 200, while “I Love You.” reached no. 25 –– and “The Neighbourhood” explicates the crisis of the identity that comes with the end of a band’s 15 minutes of fame. The band appears to have been chasing after the success of “Sweater Weather,” falling short each time. Many songs from “The Neighbourhood” have already appeared on previous EPs released by the group, leaving fans with little in terms of new content.
“Flowers,” which opens the album, responds to those attempting to put The Neighbourhood in a box –– those who want the band to behave and perform like more normalized hyper-masculine artists. Doing so would, however, be a departure from traditional alt-rock culture, best embodied by the ’90s band Nirvana. A scroll through lead vocalist Jesse Rutherford’s Instagram reflects this desire to stand out as he appears shirtless, lips smeared with red lipstick in several photos.
Somewhat ironically, it seems that The Neighbourhood is trying too hard to reinvent their sound, desperately clinging to relevancy and employing current pop trends, largely unsuccessfully. “Flowers,” especially, is far too autotuned.
The band’s failure to capitalize on current trends is clear in the second song on the track list, “Scary Love, ” the first single from The Neighbourhood’s 2018 EP “To Imagine.” The transition from “Flowers” to “Scary Love” is rough and reflects the group’s inability to find –– and more importantly, to stick with –– one sound. “Scary Love,” as implied by the title, is dark and heavy, featuring knocking synth and strong drum beats. Whereas the previous track was pop-based, “Scary Love” is clearly not.
Thematically, the works of The Neighbourhood reflect little growth and personal development. The songs are almost exclusively downers, with a focus on lost, happier days. “Sadderdaze,” track 7 on the album, reflects this trend perfectly. With “Saturdays are not the same as they used to be / Sadder days, why do they keep on using me? / They keep on using me” as the chorus, the group’s wistful, bitter perspective on fame is clear. The repetitive thematic nature of The Neighbourhood’s music has little longevity. It seems like the band is just making the same song over and over, making “The Neighbourhood” a tedious, boring listen.
On “#000000 & #FFFFFF,” the group attempted more of a hip-hop approach, and when the album did not get the reaction they hoped for, The Neighbourhood went right back to the moody, reflective tunes that first made them famous. The return feels, however, like a detached, uninvolved effort. “The Neighbourhood” is dramatic, over-the-top and dark for the sake of being dark –– none of which is executed in a convincing or powerful way.
Track 9, “You Get Me So High,” proves to be the most honest on the album. The group reflects on hit-track “Sweater Weather,” with Rutherford singing that “for a long time I took it all for granted / I really thought we had it.” This lyric makes clear that the group is aware of their downward trajectory, with a strong start in 2011 and a gradual decline –– with the occasional spike, to be sure –– since then. Listening to “The Neighbourhood,” it is hard not to feel sorry for the group.
If The Neighbourhood wants to succeed in the future, the band will need to truly reinvent itself. In doing so, it must pick a style and stick to it, instead of haphazardly hopping on and jumping off various trends.