Los Angeles-based alternative band The Neighbourhood released their fourth studio album, “Chip Chrome & the Mono-Tones,” last Friday. The band consists of frontman Jesse Rutherford, guitarist Zach Abels, drummer Brandon Alexander Frieds, bassist Mikey Margott, and guitarist Jeremy Freedman.
Frontman Rutherford takes on the alter-ego of Chip Chrome, a man painted and dressed in metallic silver, which is loosely based on David Bowie’s character Ziggy Stardust. His backing band is called the Mono-Tones, hence the name of the album. This album is more conceptual, mature and weird than the band has ever done.
Rutherford took a break from internet life and social media for nine months to develop his Chip Chrome persona. The character himself took almost three years to perfect. He reflected on his personal experiences as a musician living in LA and combined that thought process with aspects of Ziggy Stardust to create this love child.
“Bowie was Ziggy and Ziggy was a character very addicted to cocaine — and I would say that Chip is addicted to the internet, a product of addiction from social media for so many years,” Rutherford told Apple Music in an interview.
The 11-track, 32 minute album contains a mix of slow ballads, synth-y electric mixes, and chilled out rhythmic songs with introspective lyrics as a way to showcase the band’s ability to diversify their sound. Every song is written and produced by the five members.
One of the four singles, an alt-rock track titled “Devil’s Advocate,” talks through Rutherford’s fame and slowing down as he gets older, but how he constantly has doubts about what he really wants: strippers? His current long-term girlfriend? Designer items? A family? Diamonds? It is mainly his struggle to define what greatness and success means to him.
“For us, everything is always playing devil’s advocate — like ‘Well, what if this doesn’t work out the way that we hope?’ or ‘Could this happen?’— so that term really was on my head a lot on a lot of the verses,” said Rutherford.
“Cherry Flavoured,” another single off the album, details Rutherford’s history with drug abuse, with lyrics like “I’ve been getting high / But I don’t ever stay up, nah, nah /I feel like I’m fading, yeah.”
“Tobacco Sunburst” is a sentimental track dedicated to appreciating your friends and people you surround yourself with. Again, another song that recognizes the importance of slowing down and taking everything in. For a band in their late twenties and transitioning to a new record label after four albums at another one, a song like this is expected and necessary.
“Looked in those brown eyes / Thought I found myself / Damn, it’s been a while / Lookin’ in your blue eyes,” sang Rutherford.
The album lacks consistency, yet it seems like a conscious choice the band made while composing it. Self-introspection is not, and should not be, cookie-cutter. Chip Chrome’s journey throughout the album is met with a lot of challenges, channeled into the work via different sounds and styles.
Songs on this album are personal and relatable, even though most of us listening to it probably are not grappling with fame and its consequences. However, the lyrics are written in an accessible way which allows for relatability and engagement.
That said, the album has room to be more dynamic. The most exciting songs are easily their four singles. The others do not stand out sonically and take a couple listen throughs to be able to differentiate.
This album definitely is stronger than their third and previous album, “The Neighbourhood,” released in 2018. That album lacked self awareness and was filled with trap and pop style songs that did not fit their sound or style at all.
Overall, The Neighbourhood explores new styles and experiments not seen on any of their past albums, all while simultaneously keeping the melancholy yet peaceful sound present in their other projects.