'The Neighbourhood' Is About What It's Like to Be in the Neighbourhood
The sad-eyed boys of the Neighbourhood have made an album about being in the Neighbourhood.
9 March 2018
What's the aesthetic of black and white photography? Is it about draining color for the sake of seeming aged, experienced? Is it about evoking a sad mood? Whatever it's about, the Neighbourhood, a Californian band that somehow seems English, loves the color-drain. It's even how they brand themselves on their new album, their first to feature their faces. This drab theme is not new for the band: just google image search the band for a visual. Easily said, this is a band obsessed with curating their image. That brings us to the fact that their newest is self-titled. Why would a band seemingly so obsessed with their image name an album after themselves? It's simple: The Neighbourhood is about what it's like to be in the Neighbourhood.
It somehow just makes sense that this band would make a concept album about themselves. Here's a band who came on the scene fully-formed in 2013. Their image was in place, their looks were chiseled in stone, and they made those serious, sad eyes young music lovers just eat up. They've explored a little since then, but their image has laid firmly intact. They have a song with nearly 300 million listens on Spotify. This band is huge, and they're heavily curated, so they're not far from a boy band in that sense, which leads us to the album.
Curating such a rigid style must lead to internal conflict, and the lyrics find the band chewing on image issues as well as commercial pressure. Opener "Flowers" is the most easily read on this issue: "Every day you want me to make something I hate just for your sake. I'm such a fake. I'm just a dog. I'm a rip-off, and it turns you on." "Sadderdaze", a mid-album highlight, continues the dour self-analysis: "Now the sun is closer than it was before. Anyone who's anyone can feel it. Saturdays are not the same as they used to be. Saturdays why do they keep on using me?" "Too Serious" even drops this melodramatic line: "I feel like I'm broken. Now, I feel like I'm choking. How I wish I was joking with you." Many other songs can be read through the same lens.
Musically, The Neighbourhood continues in the same realm as their past work. It's moody, down-tempo rock with a little R&B tinge: think sad Weeknd with occasional synths leads and a little Auto-Tuned Kanye thrown in. The occasional synth break lets a little light break through the clouds, but mostly this is a fairly grey sound template. Overall, it's a sound that echoes the pop radio of our current day. After all, this is a sad boy band.
Closer, "Stuck with Me", is the thematic bookend to opener "Flowers". Whereas, "Flowers" seems to throw vitriol at the fans for treating the Neighbourhood like a trained dog, "Stuck with Me" finds the band accepting this role: "You are stuck with me, so I'll guess I'll be sticking with you." For all the moods expressed in the album, this is the salve, the resignation. But why make an album about it then? Well, Rutherford answers that on "Stuck with Me": "I'm not telling you for any certain reason, but I just want your empathy." Look into those sad eyes and empathize, people.