The Neighbourhood’s new album introduces Chip Chrome, but we still don’t know who he is.


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The indie-pop superstars have returned with a concept album that doesn’t do much to conceptualize anything on “Chip Chrome and the Mono-Tones”.

With a massive fanbase and a sizable discography, it seems like The Neighbourhood has the social capital to take whatever artistic liberties they want, knowing that their supporters will be behind them. So with “Chip Chrome”, they have decided that almost a decade into their careers, it is time to make an album revolving around a B-list Ziggy Stardust-like character.

But with the introduction of a whole new face representing The Neighbourhood, were they able to create anything that forms a true realization of what the character is or represents?

Well, not really. But does this necessarily mean the music is bad? Again, not really.

The sad truth of “Chip Chrome” is that it is not clear what, or who, the character is. He has no real personality, and at the end of the day, these are just The Neighbourhood songs, except this time Jesse Rutherford is painted silver and is spandex-clad.

To be fair, there are some tunes on the album that are genuinely good to great. “Pretty Boy” and “Lost in Translation” are fun, vibey pop songs that fans of The Neighbourhood will probably have already played ad nauseum by the time you are reading this review.

The catch with these songs, as well as similar others such as “Cherry Flavoured” and “BooHoo” is that they don’t do much to tie into the greater theme of Chip Chrome as a character, and rather serve as good songs removed from the canon of the album.

The songs that do tie into Chip Chrome theme do not fare as well. The opening intro, “Chip Chrome”, is a 30 second ’70s sci-fi soundscape. This implies some sort of extraterrestrial element, but other than some general themes on the album about being an outsider, and a lyrical reference to going “lightspeed” on “Devil’s Advocate,” little is done to flesh out the character.

Production-wise, the whole album has a vague psychedelic sound to it. Low-fi recording with light reverb lends itself to the ’70s left-field approach of the character, but not in any significant way. It ends up feeling shallow, especially considering that this production style has been done to death by now.

“Hell or High Water” and “The Mono-Tones” are a couple of half-baked ideas that are too distinct to be considered filler, but feel so inconsequential in the whole of the album that it is hard to consider them more than anything other than sticking out like a sore thumb in the worst way. 

With “Hell or High Water” specifically, Rutherford goes country in a surface-level attempt to heighten the camp factor of the album, but his efforts ring hollow since almost no effort was put into making the rest of the album nearly as campy as this song would suggest.

The songwriting across “Chip Chrome” varies in quality. There are some lyrical pop gems such as “it’s like an apple of temptation/you let me get a bite, out of sight, out of mind/until I found a bruise on the other side”, but there are also lines such as “keep it cool like iced tea/so if I seem shy/it’s ’cause you seem so shiesty” that verge on cringe-worthy. The majority of the writing is caught somewhere in the middle, almost never leaving an impression.

If there is anything to take away from “Chip Chrome and the Mono-Tones”, it is the pop songs. The Neighbourhood’s newest effort is at its best when it strays from the script and disregards the weak concept. But unfortunately, the great pop songs are brought down by some watered down half-songs.

Recommended listening settings: hanging out with friends so you don’t have to listen as closely to the bad songs

Rating: 4/10

Thomas Stremfel can be reached at [email protected] or @tomstremfel on Twitter.