Two years and the departure of a band member on from their first LP, The Neighbourhood have shared Wiped Out! and it’s interesting. It’s a somewhat inconsistent album, demonstrating both NBHD’s original style and a more progressed, experimental one. The mixtape released by the band at the beginning of 2014 gave fans a glimpse of what might be expected of the five-piece’s future work – notably a new flirtation with hip-hop and R&B.
I find it quite difficult to designate The Neighbourhood a specific genre, but I guess it’s a slightly more hardcore form of indie rock. In this latest oeuvre the band has, in a few instances, strayed from this realm, however. If we start midway through the album with title track Wiped Out! it’s quickly noticed that this track is very experimental; it opens with a strong psychedelic element which culminates in a sequence which sounds very late 60s psych-ish, by the end of the track the listener has also encountered a period of chilled 90s garage rock – it’s a weird song.
Popular tracks Cry Baby and R.I.P. 2 My Youth share and typify NBHD’s sound in the LP. Both tracks are unmistakably works by the band, however we get this strong infusion of R&B in the vocal work of Jesse Rutherford. For me, Cry Baby hasn’t benefitted from this aspect – the lyrics were exposed as being uninspired by the singing style I thought. On the contrary, R.I.P. 2 My Youth (released upon the announcement of Wiped Out!) is lyrically excellent with the words both fitting in with the instrumental melody and provoking thought.
Beyond the injection of R&B and psychedelia, in Single we get a kitsch little compound of indie pop and folk before the track mutates into a stripped-down rock ballad. Greetings From Califournia somehow goes from an eerie, bass-heavy instrumental to one rooted in noughties pop hip-hop without making a hash of the transition.
I enjoyed listening to those tracks which wandered from the beaten track of NBHD’s more concrete style, but most of the better tracks on the album are the more familiar ones. Prey, which kicks off the album proper following an intro track, is stunning. Rutherford’s words are under the spotlight at first with high-pitched guitar dancing seductively behind them; when the percussion and chord sequence enter it’s impossible not to be hooked. Similarly to in Prey, the vocal element of The Beach is gorgeously complimented by an understated yet engaging instrumental. Finally, Daddy Issues, which we encounter at the halfway point of the track list, is utterly NBHD; intense and atmospheric, the guys manage to balance gentle vibes with powerful chords and piercing drum beats.
In all, Wiped Out! is a lovely construction by its Californian architects. They’ve ticked my boxes for a great work of indie rock: they’ve experimented both successfully and less successfully, they’ve produced top-quality tracks in a more familiar ilk to former works, and they’ve structured all this exceptionally. Bravo to The Neighbourhood, they can give themselves a pat on the back. Job well done.