The Neighbourhood’s sophomore album “Wiped Out!,” literally begins with nothing. The record, which was released on Oct. 30, kicks off with a track titled “A Moment of Silence,” and delivers exactly what it promises: a moment of absolute silence and nothing else.
While this might be interpreted as artistic expression, the intention behind this choice is unclear, and paying $1.29 on iTunes for thirty seconds of nothing is entirely absurd. Unfortunately for The Neighbourhood fans, the emptiness of this opening track foreshadows many of the other songs to follow. Buying “Wiped Out!” borders paying for disappointment.
“R.I.P. 2 My Youth,” the first single released in August, is a catchy and creative track that intensified anticipation of the full album. It is a powerful, driving song that serves as recognition of the end of innocence. Jesse Rutherford sings morbidly about his desire for death — presumably metaphorical — and directs the song toward his sister and mother. “Tell my sister don’t cry and don’t be sad/ I’m in Paradise with Dad/ Close my eyes and then cross my arms/ put me in the dirt, let me be with the stars.” The haunting, heavy beat pounds these images into the soul.
After this poignant first release, “Wiped Out!” was expected to be legendary. The other songs, however, are uncharacteristically bland.
“Prey,” although technically the second track, is the first to actually feature music. Considering that it already follows “A Moment of Silence,” the slow progression to its first verse feels especially long. Once into the verses, an addictive guitar riff and hook finally picks up the energy. By the chorus, however, the familiar tune is replaced by hazy, breathy vocals and the song loses its liveliness. “Cry Baby” feels like an extension to “Prey” because of the similar structure and drum patterns. It begins with an interesting hook and then quickly drops off.
The title track, “Wiped Out!,” picks up at the start and reveals potential for an interesting change of pace. During the choruses the catchy drumbeats cut out and the instrumental becomes empty, a trend that seems to develop on this album. Four minutes into the song, an electronic grunge radiates and hints at leading to a powerful drop. It culminates, however, in a mere repetition of what came before it.
“The Beach” and “Daddy Issues” perpetuate the pattern of interesting hooks that lead to a stale, chill vibe that has characterized all of the songs thus far. This lack of variation begins to feel frustratingly repetitive.
The seventh track, “Baby Came Home 2/Valentines,” expectedly has the same effect. This song, however, calls back the opening of the album with an extended period of quiet, ambient sound. Although it supposedly acts as a transition to the second part of the song, it ends with a compilation of indecipherable voices behind rushing water and electronic noise. At six and a half minutes, the song goes nowhere.
“Single,” which rivals “R.I.P 2 My Youth” for the most interesting track, provides a refreshing change. With the introduction of an acoustic guitar and clear vocals, it offers a shift from the previous trend of purely atmospheric sound. The second to last track is finally a noteworthy and much needed variation.
The Neighbourhood’s first album, “I Love You,” which was released in 2013, relates to “Wiped Out!” in that the tones and rhythms across many of the tracks are similar. The exception was the very popular “Sweater Weather.” In this song, the tempo excitingly picks up and drives, complementing the relatable lyrics. It can be argued that this radio hit was responsible for the success of “I Love You” as a whole.
The two albums differ in a crucial respect, though. “Wiped Out!” lacks a noteworthy song that is vastly different from the rest. Although “Single” and “R.I.P 2 My Youth” are undoubtedly more interesting, they are not quite unique enough to compensate for the previous lack of variation. The album desperately needs a driving beat to stand out among the consistent drag.
Admittedly, with this release, The Neighbourhood has solidified their niche of chill, atmospheric vibes. Each song adequately fits the style well and caters to a certain purpose: It serves perfectly as a mood or ambient playlist. But, perhaps, that is where it ends.
The album lacks varied tempo, beats and instrumentals, which would have made for a dynamic collection of moving parts in a musical experience. That being said, an album of merely up-tempo tracks would have been equally as unsatisfying. The key is in the balance: A diversity of sound produces more versatility. Hopefully “Wiped Out!” does not mark a permanent end to The Neighbourhood’s creative musicality.
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