In 2014, Tumblr was the social media platform for all things edgy. Among the most popular things to like were American Horror Story, Arctic Monkeys and The Neighbourhood. More than just a massive commercial success, “Sweater Weather” by The Neighbourhood was the anthem of every indie kid at the time. The concept of “sweater weather” fit the monotone aesthetic of the year and gave people a radio hit that could describe the way it feels to fall in love when you’re still young and innocent. The song remains an indie classic to this day. The group’s 2015 release, Wiped Out!, garnered a fair amount of success as well, with the lead single “RIP To My Youth” charting in the US, and songs like “Daddy Issues” gaining traction in 2020 on Tik Tok.
Between 2015 and 2020, The Neighborhood stayed relatively silent. Frontman Jesse Rutherford spent the years creating the persona of Chip Chrome, even taking nearly a year off of social media before the release of their newest project, Chip-Chrome and the Mono-Tones. This year of silence was integral to Rutherford’s creation of Chip Chrome. It gave him the time and space to think of what Chip Chrome would look like and how it would represent a change in the group’s image.
Chip Chrome is Jesse Rutherford’s alter-ego that inspired the title and cover of the album; it’s a David Bowie inspired man of the future, clad head to toe in silver and chains. In an interview with Apple Music, Rutherford explained how Chip Chrome is addicted to the internet. This persona was crafted during a time when Rutherford himself was taking a step back from the online world. By creating a persona that’s addicted to the internet when he was not on the internet, Rutherford was certainly contradicting himself. It’s fair to assume that part of the challenge of creating Chip Chrome was in the fact that he was made with just Rutherford’s creativity, with little to no influence from the online world.
The album is only eleven tracks long, and any longer would have been too much. Listening to the album straight through from beginning to end is only a 32 minute endeavor, making it their shortest release thus far. The album takes inspiration from the group’s signature sound, filled with melancholy guitars and heavy hitting drums, echoey vocals and relatable lyrics. In “Cherry Flavoured,” there’s a guitar riff reminiscent of that from “Sweater Weather,” and “Silver Lining” has the same, almost haunting echo that was a staple on the group’s first album, I Love You.
Despite this, where The Neighborhood’s fourth album differs from its predecessors is where it soars. While there is something inherently nostalgic about their early 2010s sound that continued through their first three albums, a group needs to know when to depart from their original sound and mature. It’s evident in each track of Chip-Chrome that this album is that shift for The Neighborhood.
The subject matters of the songs remain just as serious and introspective as the group’s earlier work without sounding as stereotypically angsty. Rutherford sings about relationship troubles, dealing with fame and money, and addiction in all forms. The album is a heart-wrenching journey alongside Rutherford’s struggles, most of which have happened away from the public eye in the past few years.
What’s so impressive about this album is how the group progressed in terms of maturity. Where I Love You. and Wiped Out! repeated similar themes of heartbreak and love between all of the tracks, Chip-Chrome shows Rutherford’s inner struggles through the eye of his new persona. While that alter-ego of Chip Chrome is masking the listener from seeing directly into Rutherford’s brain, there’s still a sense of vulnerability in this album that had yet to be fully hashed out by the group. Rutherford is able to delve into the dirty details of his relationship with Devon Carlson through the eyes of Chip Chrome, an objective third person involved in Rutherford’s personal life.
By far one of those most surprisingly contemplative and impressive albums of 2020, Chip-Chrome and The Mono-Tones bodes well for the band’s future. While many may feel that The Neighborhood has already reached their peak, this release says differently.
Daily Arts Writer Giselle Cuilla can be reached at email@example.com
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