Imagine a day at the beach. Imagine that you’ve been out past the waves just floating on your back in the water, and now you want to go back to land. You start making your way back and it’s really easy; you just drift along with the waves as you are pushed back to shore. At some point, you’re gonna have to get up off your ass and onto your feet, however, and once you’re on your feet, it suddenly becomes much harder. Your feet start to sink into the wet sand; it’s a great effort just to get one above the water. The waves receding pull your legs behind you, making each step a chore. That’s what listening to “Wiped Out!” the latest album by The Neighborhood is analogous to.
The Neighbourhood is a California-based alternative rock band. Their last full-length, 2013’s “I Love You,” was met with less-than-lukewarm reception from critics. But the album has aged better than what was expected. On “I Love You,” The Neighbourhood showed that they can craft some pretty decent alt-rock songs like “Afraid,” “W.D.Y.W.F.M?” and “Sweater Weather”–the band’s biggest hit. Special attention should be given to the use of vocals with distortion that harmonize with the lead voice. It gave the album a much needed flare of personality.
Then came the rogue wave that was “#000000 & #ffffff,” a mixtape released by The Neighbourhood. This is a full blown hip-hop mixtape by an alt-rock band featuring everything from a Danny Brown feature to a Lil Wayne sample. Surprisingly, the mixtape wasn’t half bad. The Neighbourhood was pretty serious about experimenting with their style on this project and the result is a fusion of genres and styles to create something original.
Unfortunately, The Neighbourhood did not carry this experimental mentality onto “Wiped Out!” The biggest problem with this album is that it is boring. The band goes for a “chill” feeling for the album, but they miss the mark.
Right out of the gate, the album frustrates with the opener “Moment of Silence.” This track isn’t a song. It is literally 30 seconds of silence (which is way longer than a “moment”). It’s not deplorable that the album starts with a track of just silence. What is deplorable is that it lasts for half a minute with absolutely no context.
At least when other artists try to get away with passing silence for actual song-writing, they normally have some bullshit excuse to justify it (looking at Chance, the Rapper’s “Pusha Man”). There is no reason to have this track take up this much space on the album. You stand to lose absolutely nothing by skipping past this track each time the album starts.
Besides wasting the listener’s time, The Neighbourhood also commits the cardinal sin of making a boring album. Besides the first three tracks after the opener, the album is a complete chore to get through. Each song is the same mix of groaned/whispered vocals over ambient synths, guitar and some slow percussion; there is very, very little to differentiate each song from one another. This wouldn’t be a problem if each song was interesting, but the lyrics are so dull that you can’t help but let them go in one ear and then out the other.
The one thing a listener might do more than yawn while listening to this album is cringe. The song “Daddy Issues” for example, attempts to be a sweet song about frontman Jesse Rutherford relating with a girl about lost parents, but the lyrics come off so creepily when they are quietly whispered into your ear.
Case in point: “If you were mine, little girl / I’d do whatever I could do”–did these lines not ring any alarm bells in the head of anyone in the band? Then again this is the same band that purposely put 30 seconds of silence as the opener to their album, but I digress.
Granted, “Wiped Out!” does have some rare good moments. The track “Cry Baby” is a fairly enjoyable pop track with some pretty clever use of the phrase “Cry Baby.” The first actual song of the album “Prey” is also a pretty energetic song where the percussion and vocals blend nicely. The album’s closer “R.I.P. 2 My Youth” is an enjoyable track if you don’t listen too closely to the lyrics.
But these tracks are the few exception to the 11-song tracklist. The rest of the tracks on this album are dull, uninteresting and too slow for their own good. Even when the band does break out of this dull reverie, such as the hard-hitting synth on “Baby Came Home 2 / Valentines,” it lasts two minutes too long. “Greetings from Califournia” has some cowbell on it, but it is way too sparse to bring this song out of the mediocrity in which it is entrenched.
Overall, it is very hard to recommend this album. It’s obvious to see that The Neighbourhood was trying to go for a “chill” schtick on this album, but they miss the mark by a great margin.
If, for some ungodly reason, you run out of Nyquil while nursing this season’s cold and want to give alternative sleep-aids a shot, by all means try this album out. But if you like listening to music to elicit a positive, or any kind of meaningful response, then you might be better off jumping back to The Neighbourhood’s mixtape, “#000000 & #ffffff.”