Album Review: The Neighbourhood – Wiped Out!

When The Neigbourhood emerged onto the scene a couple of years ago with instant hit Sweater Weather, the one thing most people assumed was that the collective would wind up as a one-hit wonder. However, this is far from the truth. 2013 debut I Love You became an instant hit all over the world, with the band subsequently touring the world and playing for huge crowds. Now, the California quintet have returned with their sophomore album, Wiped Out! Have the band managed to surpass one-hit wonder territory? Read on to find out.

The record opens on the 30-second long intro A Moment of Silence, which is quite literally thirty seconds of silence. Throwing the listener off course from the start was the intention here, leading into the ‘proper’ opening track, Prey. Jangly guitars and ambient background noise control the foreground here at the start, before making way for light percussion and a catchy guitar section. Frontman Jesse Rutherford’s vocals are icy cold during the first verse, with occasional vocal effects accompanying his voice. “Something is wrong, I can’t explain” he sings during the chorus, his voice accompanied by an acoustic guitar. What follows sees the whole band soar, before the following verse picks up on previously presented elements and elaborates further. During the breakdown, falsetto vocals and more distorted guitars enter the frame, both
assisting the track in becoming sultrier than before. Cry Baby’s opening electronics and sharp guitar line make way for a dancefloor-ready bassline courtesy of Mikey Margott. It heads very much down an RnB path, encompassing Weeknd-esque instrumentals and four-to-the-floor percussion straight out of the depths of West Coast underground disco. Despite the more upbeat musical accompaniment, Cry Baby still carries a more demure tone which lends itself to the black & white imagery this band constantly presents. “I can’t wait till the drought is over” sings Rutherford, before a high-pitched guitar line courtesy of Zach Abels once again joins in. Title track Wiped Out!, which spans almost seven minutes, is faster paced from the start as Rutherford’s vocals are accompanied by acoustic guitars, upbeat percussion and pulsating bass. There’s one main synth melody which holds a lot of track together, cleverly placing itself between sections of different tempo’s to help everything sound more cohesive. “I don’t wanna let you down” declares Rutherford over hypnotic instrumentals and handclaps, the music instantly morphing from laid-back surf rock into modern hip hop. This section drags on for a bit, encompassing a skilful, distortion and fuzz-laden guitar solo and ambient background noise. It all comes together at this point, before the track suddenly changes tack once more and speeds up into a fuzzy instrumental breakdown. Caterwauling feedback and bubbling synths are the mainstay here, before what sounds like a KORG Fuzz Factory takes the helm here alongside a cacophony of odd noises. Despite all this, though, you can hear the music fighting back from under and eventually taking over in a completely new style to the first half of the track. Rutherford’s vocals are very heavily effects-laden now, with his band having the turned the track into a dancefloor filler.

The Beach slows proceedings down once more, its intro featuring everyday sounds underpinned by a grand, woozy piano and synth. Rutherford’s vocals are instantly joined by programed drums (courtesy of new drummer Brandon Fried), giving the whole track a poppier, RnB feel. The chorus is a slower, acoustic-helmed affair which makes way for more progressive and out-there verses. Although you can hear the definite pop sensibilities which The Neighbourhood are becoming a bigger part of, you can still sense that the band haven’t let go of their roots. “I’m sick, and tired too” wails Rutherford, declaring that he can “feel it burning me”. Daddy Issues introduces a more laid-back, Beach Goth-ish feel which screams West Coast summer nights. It doesn’t last long though, with an extremely wobbly bassline drawing all the attention towards itself during the verse. Rutherford’s vocals, at times, are accompanied
by chopped up vocal cuts in the background which add to the eerie feel of the whole record so far. “I tried to write your name in the rain, but the rain never came” sings Rutherford during the second verse, his vocals almost entirely swallowed up by the bubbling bassline which accompanies him. The verses get bigger as the track progresses, culminating in a catchy ending. It makes way for the longer Baby Came Home 2 / Valentines, which is split into two
halves. The first half of the song sees Rutherford and an acoustic guitar take the helm, alongside a female backing choir who underpin his vocals with eerie undertones. Falsetto also shows up throughout, before the rest of the band join proceedings. When this happens, everything suddenly sounds more euphoric and hopeful, giving off a “there is a light at the end of the tunnel” feel to the record. It’s quickly followed up by waspy bass synths and vocal effects, which take a turn for the grandiose. This section bubbles up quite nicely, with distortion on the menu for the most part. As it slowly does out (by means of the choir), the second half of the track starts to make its mark. It sounds like obscure electronics backed by waves and screams at first, before utilizing weird timings to push the album down an Avant Garde-route.

Greetings From Califournia keeps the Avant Garde theme running, combining it with ambience and a sudden change of path. This change of path sounds everything and nothing like RnB at the same time, utilizing added percussion and eerie lyrics to get its point across. The ‘chorus’ is an extremely lo-fi affair, sandwiching itself between bass-heavy, danceable verses. The distortion-heavy Ferrari follows, sounding during the intro like a love child between Death Grips and H09909. The verses are very much a hip hop thing, with the imagery accompanying this track filled with black and white scenescapes through downtown New York. The underlying synth melody, once isolated, could even be something used on a full-blown classic rap track from the 90s. “Don’t say you love me more” declares Rutherford, with the track not going much further after this. Penultimate track Single sounds euphoric and hopeful, making use of a ukulele and a happy-sounding melody. Rutherford uses the track to muse about a lost lover, which is a definite contrast from the seemingly “hopeful” instrumentals. “Can you let your baby be my girl?” asks the frontman, before the track attempts to enter a more danceable frontier for its closing half. R.I.P. 2 My Youth brings the album to a close, using a darker opening melody and powerful percussion during the intro. It sounds both raw and polished at the same time, although instrumentally it’s very bare. The song is an ode the end of Rutherford’s youth, whilst also doubling up as the end of the record. The second half of the track is very ambient and wispy, sticking in your mind thanks to its memorable underpinning melody alongside Rutherford’s soaring voice. “Close my eyes and let me be with the stars” he declares, with the album swiftly coming to an end.

Although the album doesn’t bear an equivalent to Sweater Weather, it has demonstrated to everyone that The Neighbourhood are becoming an album band, and not a one-hit wonder. The ten full songs on Wiped Out! do nothing to restrict themselves within certain boundaries, even if the same trends and patterns do recur throughout. It’s an organic album with processed sensibilities, essentially a musical representation of 2015’s hipster, materialistic youth culture. The only thing which distinguishes the band from hundreds of sound-alikes, though, is their ability to mash a variety of sounds into one song to create a well-thought out end product. The hype may not be there this year, but at least The Neighbourhood have proven to everyone that they don’t need to rely on past successes to keep powering on in the right direction.


Wiped Out! is out now.