Diving into the broad idea of a concept album, California-based alternative band The Neighbourhood is back with its fourth studio album, Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones. Pulling inspiration from David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust, The Neighbourhood’s frontman Jesse Rutherford takes on the persona of the titular character, Chip Chrome. Decked out in silver-paint and chrome-colored attire, Rutherford ceases to exist on the album, and Chip Chrome is now leading the band.
The 11-track album is a foray of different sounds and genres, and ultimately, it sees the band diversify its sound from track to track. The Californians dive into alternative-inspired mellow pop on singles like “Pretty Boy” and “Cherry Flavoured,” whereas the band takes a more electronic, hip-hop-nuanced route with tracks like “BooHoo.”
Despite that sonic fluidity, it results in the album lacking in any type of cohesiveness. Listeners jump from electro-pop to singer-songwriter vibes to even some hip-hop nuances, and while it shows The Neighbourhood isn’t afraid to be experimental — the band’s entire discography shows that — it does prevent the entire album of being a coherent concept album.
If the aim wasn’t to create a concept album, then the character of Chip Chrome is a bit misleading and downright confusing. Nonetheless, even if the album lacks as a succinct 11-track effort, it succeeds with individual tracks, especially its singles.
The album’s closing track, “Middle of Somewhere,” excels musically and lyrically among the entire tracklist. Detailing the mental state of Rutherford, the acoustic track is emotionally raw, as the singer yearns for peace of mind and finds solace in someone else. Sonically simplistic with just Rutherford’s vocals and an acoustic guitar, the track doesn’t try too hard, but it stands out among the rest.
Included in the more acoustic side of the album, “Tobacco Sunburst” sees The Neighbourhood provide its take on modern-day folk. Transient and moody, the song includes haunting cello instrumentation within the track, which exquisitely fades into “Middle of Somewhere.”
Cohesively, Chip Chrome doesn’t see The Neighbourhood making a lasting impact on the music scene like it did with 2015’s Wiped Out! or its 2013 debut, I Love You. Releasing most of the album’s best tracks as singles hyped up an grand album, but in the end, the rest doesn’t necessarily compare.
Some tracks are memorable, and some fade to the back of your mind even after a few listens. The album is a valiant effort to diversify The Neighbourhood’s sound even further than its already done before, but ultimately, it misses the mark. Chip Chrome may be a shiny and bright persona, but overall, the album surrounding the character is a bit dull and all over the place.