Music You Should Know: The Unending Emotional Intrigue of ‘The Neighbourhood’ by The Neighbourhood

The Neighbourhood © Joe Quigg
Over the last five-and-change years, The Neighbourhood have continually worn their hearts on their sleeve — and it never ceases to matter.

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“My insecurities are my own worst enemy; yeah, something’s not lettin’ me move the way I used to,” Jesse Rutherford laments on “Nervous,” the third track off The Neighbourhood’s eponymous third full-length album, released March 9th via Columbia Records.

This line seems to fully sum up The Neighbourhood’s entire thematic enterprise: navigating uncertainty and identifying faults, and subsequently overcoming – or at least working toward overcoming – these things. Rutherford’s unabashedly honest lyricism, coupled with the band’s undeniable instrumental simpatico, have injected rare, raw redolence into the music industry, separating The Neighbourhood from many others in the pack. Over the last five-and-change years, The Neighbourhood have continually worn their hearts on their sleeve — and it never ceases to matter.

Throughout the last few years, The Neighbourhood have managed to completely delineate a holistic narrative of formidable heartache — and not just in a romantic sense. Rutherford and The Neighbourhood boys never seem to have trouble circumnavigating their own self-reflective tendencies, tirelessly showing us they are wholly capable of – and sufficient in – admitting their full range of emotions.

Since 2015’s Wiped Out!, an LP wrought with effervescent brilliance coupled hollowed despondency, The Neighbourhood have ostensibly maintained a lower profile, touring only minimally and opting not to release music until two years later, September’s Hard EP. Following Hard, the five-piece then seemed to be a music-making machine, subsequently releasing the To Imagine EP in early 2018 and the Hard to imagine EP shortly thereafter (the latter compiles both former EPs into one); then, as if inspired by their momentum, the eponymous full-length.

In each of these new releases, The Neighbourhood continue to show off their unique prowess, narrating their personal life, love and heartache, and the industry in which they have found themselves. They have remained quintessentially millennial throughout, and show no shame in it, either. The Neighbourhood have always, and will always, remain fixated on accessibility, be that good or bad. With their latest release, this is even more evident.

The Neighbourhood - The Neighbourhood
The Neighbourhood – The Neighbourhood

The eponymous album is a complex narrative filled with questions: questions for a sycophantic following, questions for a fraught internal monologue, questions of uncertainty in a relationship. Questions, that, really, we all have at some point. Questions that make us—and them—human.

In the album’s opener, “Flowers,” Rutherford sings to his sycophants, stating that:

Every day you want me to make
Something I hate, all for your sake.
I’m such a fake, I’m just a doll
I’m a rip-off and it turns you on.

It feels like a direct commentary on being a celebrity; quantifying worth based on whatever others want. As the song continues, it teeters along a metaphor of a failing relationship, denigrating fakeness that ultimately finds Rutherford as the victim of too much people-pleasing.

Someone has to do it (do it)
So I guess I will (me)
You want more than flowers
And I, I can be your fling.

Following “Flowers,” Rutherford dives in “Scary Love,” an explosive earworm about—if you couldn’t guess from the title—the terrifying feeling of being so in love that Rutherford doesn’t know what to do about it. Through an addictive hook and a soaring instrumental riff, Rutherford elucidates feeling completely enamored by his love (most likely, his real-life partner Devon Lee Carlson), proclaiming that “no drug can give [him] clarity as much,” and that no one “has ever cared for [him] as much.He “needs” the love to keep him going. And, we want it to.

Listen: “Scary Love” – The Neighbourhood

The Neighbourhood have never tried to shy away from showing their full range of emotions, including those that look introspectively within. On “Nervous,” Rutherford makes this sentiment immediately known, opening the track by pondering, “Maybe I shouldn’t try to be perfect / I confess, I’m obsessed with the surface / In the end, if I fall or if I get it all / I just hope that it’s worth it.” The song is an ode to paranoia, to questioning one’s goals, to making necessary changes. Rutherford acknowledges that he needs “a different approach,” and that he wants to make these necessary changes to show that he’s “capable.”

On “Void,” Rutherford further fuels his uncertainty, almost instantly noting that he “always feels inadequate.” On the track, he laments about going through withdrawals, and that seeking solace any way he can. “[His] insecurities are [his] own worst enemy,” and he desperately tries to alleviate his pain through a significant other. It is a cry for help that, ultimately, drives all the album’s overarching themes home. The Neighbourhood categorically question efficacy, using the guise of relationships to cloak self-deprecation and lessen its impact. This is not necessarily a bad thing—contrarily, the band has uniquely allowed for their intensely personal sentiments to feel wholly objective, and offer sympathy to abjectness.

Listen: “Void” – The Neighbourhood

Softcore,” an auto-tuned, synth-laden track appearing just before the album’s halfway point, utilizes its synthetic sounds to tell a rather raw narrative; Rutherford outwardly admits that he is “consumed by [his] own life,” and trying to find solace in his significant other to make him feel complete—though, it’s not entirely working. Throughout the track, Rutherford competes with himself, going back and forth between desiring to stay and be the best he can be for his significant other, or just leaving and delving deeper into his own self-destructive ways. The song does not really end with any sort of resolve, either; rather, Rutherford closes with:

It’s tearing me and suddenly I’m
(Breaking down)
It’s tearing my mind
It’s tearing my life.

Subsequently, “Blue” feels complementary to this, telling of polar opposites who can’t quite find the middle. Beginnings and ends, ups and downs, coming and going; it’s all missed. Rutherford questions why, noting the apparent unfairness of it all.

You get me up to let me down
Way too many times to count
Why you gotta do that?
You’re the one who blew that
Make it tough but get it loud
You’re done but I’m ready now
Why you gotta do that?
You’re the one who blew that
-“ Blue,” The Neighbourhood

The Neighbourhood – both the band and the album – feel stuck, seeking relief in any way possible. There is hope for a better future, however there is yet to be a real resolution. Retrospectively, The Neighbourhood (band) holistically assess the past, present, and future. Notably, in “Sadderdaze,” Rutherford seems to be referencing both the past and present, singing omnisciently about himself and delineating in third-person about people’s comments about him over the years. Through it all, he just wants to be good enough, but wonders if it’s all worth it if he’s just going to be taken advantage of. He feels used and dejected, and notes that life just is not the same anymore.

Diverting back to addressing a significant other, “Revenge” is a biting narrative about, you guessed it, revenge. Rutherford feels slighted, proclaiming that he will come for their heart, haunting them in their dreams. He will not go down without a fight – and one would feel mistaken to take this for granted. “Revenge” remains true to its title, and will not let you think otherwise.

Listen: “Revenge” – The Neighbourhood

Transitioning back into astute self-awareness, “You Get Me So High” suggests that things can get better, if they just “agree to disagree.” Rutherford returns to his yearning feelings for a lost love, asking “if it’s okay to call [them] when [he’s] lonely.” Despite feeling vengeful in the previous song, he reverts to feeling subjugated by his own emotions of loneliness and neediness.

So, if we can leave it all behind us
And meet in between,
It would get me so
High all the time, high all the time.
I wanna be high all the time,
Would you come with me?
-“You Get Me So High,” The Neighbourhood

Following along with this theme, Rutherford is yet again contemplative on “Reflections.” Using a pseudo-Icarus metaphor, noting that he and his love were “too close to the stars.” He acknowledges how similar they are, falling just as hard for one another, but they’re still not quite there. Rutherford also notes that he “sold his soul,” insinuating that he did more for the relationship than they ever did.

As a continuation of “Reflections,” “Too Serious” strives to bring the love interest to Rutherford’s level, as he opens by saying, “If I could change your mind, / then I would for sure, no doubt.” Throughout the track, however, Rutherford turns the finger back on himself, acknowledging his fault of being too serious, and how it tends to bring others down. He’s broken up about this fact, and wishes to be better, but can’t quite figure out how. It’s a seismic shift in calling out who’s to blame, as Rutherford’s self-awareness denotes that he recognizes he can’t simply play the blame game.

This shift in perspective comes to a head with the album’s closer, “Stuck with Me.”  Arguably containing the most perceptive lyricism on the entire record, “Stuck with Me” finds Rutherford fully recognizing his own faults, as well as his guilt. He states:

Realized I’m less important, oh, yeah
Than I thought I’d be, yeah
I’m not tellin’ you for any certain reasons but
I just want your empathy.

This significant moment aptly fits as the album’s closer, as Rutherford goes on to say that despite both of their differences, he and his love interest will forever be bound to one another, no matter what happens in the future. It’s hard to truly ever let go of the ones you care most about.

Listen: “Stuck with Me” – The Neighbourhood

The Neighbourhood are masters of palpable emotion, delineating a full range of emotions that span dichotomies of love, hate, confusion, clarity, and everything in between. Through fluid instrumentation and fluent lyricism, they have generated narratives that are wholly personal and accessible. On The Neighbourhood, The Neighbourhood bring 42 minutes of brilliance and resilience, remaining lucidly transparent about life’s greatest emotional toils.

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The Neighbourhood - The Neighbourhood

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? © Joe Quigg

The Evocative Awareness of The Neighbourhood’s “Wiped Out!”

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