Review Summary: Better in every way
The last few years have been quiet for the Neighbourhood. After all the hype and love for "Sweater Weather" dissipated, these California kids dug themselves into the underground, touring extensively to smaller and smaller venues, and dropped an almost completely ignored mixtape before disappearing all together. Then, with little fanfare outside of their instagram account, they reemerged with what appears to be a definitive statement on the winter surfing season. With their sophomore LP, they continue their brand of genre sandwich, meshing R&B, Indie rock, and Hip-hop. "Wiped Out!" sounds like a band becoming more comfortable as musicians as they experiment with new textures. While not all of the experiments work, the band blows their last album out of the water with something far more artistic and ambitious.
With "Wiped Out!", Jesse Rutherford and co. have learnt the importance of space. On "I Love You.", the music was claustrophobic and suffocating. Here, on "Wiped Out!", they let the music breathe, stretch its legs, and balance itself out. Dreamy, beachy soundscapes dominate the background while Jesse croons about his love life in the foreground. Production-wise, no instrument overpowers another, and each composition is more about the feel of the atmosphere than it is on the hook. The guitars roll off each other like waves, keys twinkle like stars in the night and the bass guitar thrums like darkened southern California freeways, all set to a metronomic beat. I've always been a sucker for nuances, and here The Neighbourhood have learnt how to not only nuance their music, but to add enjoyable twists on songs that would otherwise be boring and overindulgent. One of the best examples is on "Single" which takes a toy piano and a ukulele loop and builds a whole ballad on top of it, sounding especially inventive for a band that takes no risks whatsoever.
Unfortunately, this album cements this band as a bit of a one note act - good for a specific type of mood. There is a little variation in the many of the songs, giving them all a similar feel. This works both in their favor and against. It gives the album cohesion, but as a result few songs stand out on their own. In addition, the track "A moment of silence" is completely pointless, as it is simply 30 seconds of silence. After Cry Baby though, the dreariness that plagued "I Love You" begins to set in and some tracks begin to blend together. The droning latter third of "The Beach" goes on for far too long, and the echoey vocals in "Greetings from California" are annoying at best and headache inducing at worst. Even the best track on the record, "Cry Baby", sounds like it was stolen from The Weeknd's latest album.
Despite the aforementioned negatives, this album is easily the band's best work and songs like the hip-hop referential "R.I.P. to my youth", anthemic "Cry Baby", and tender "Single" are sure to be staples in set lists for the foreseeable future. All of these songs are catchy in some way or another, and the instrumental work is consistently catchy and interesting, if not repetitive. Even the lyrics, while vapid in topic are well written. "Wiped out!" probably will make few end of the year lists but it's a decently fun record that's sure to satisfy an urge every once in a while until the black and white curtains rise again for the band's third album.