Los Angeles can at times seem to be a hotbed of bands who are defiantly pop acts dressed up in indie/alternative rock clothes. And if you’ve heard one, you’ve heard them all. But are the hotly-tipped quintet The Neighbourhood different? The way they have chosen to present themselves, compared by many to Lana Del Rey in terms of style, is cause for intrigue. Following on from last year’s I’m Sorry EP, now comes the quartet’s debut full-length release, I Love You.
I Love You could be one of the year’s most disingenious album titles. For a good chunk of it, the mood is as miserable as the grey that adorns the artwork – to the point where it begins to get tiresome very quickly. Most of the time is spent aiming for a big sound, as exhibited on WDYWFM and Staying Up, but dig deeper and you’ll find that its emotional core seems remarkably hollow. Alleyways plods along without making much of a notable dent and goes on for at least a minute longer than it should, whilst the paranoid Everybody’s Watching Me is dull and, weirdly, unconvincing.
If the vocals were powerful enough then they’d have given this material a massive boost. But Jesse Rutherford comes across as whiny and angsty and his lyrics veer towards tired cliché. He is at his most toe-curlingly ineffective during Afraid when he utters phrases such as “I don’t like you, fuck you anyway” and “You make me wanna die”. He sounds petulant.
This album is not a total dud though. Unfathomably, its biggest burst of energy, Float, is buried at the very end and its chorus is fantastic, revelling in its own drama. The other two successes are not exactly new, having been featured on the I’m Sorry EP, but it’s a testament to those songs that they still work. The first is Sweater Weather, which has been a blog favourite for some time now. It’s the kind of song that has the potential to soundtrack every lighthearted TV montage and many a summer BBQ in the same way that Foster The People‘s Pumped Up Kicks did last year. The same could be said about Female Robbery, which sounds like it was made with radio airplay in mind.
Both exude a laid back attitude that I Love You could do with rather more often. For all of its slick production value, there’s not a lot of conviction behind the songs themselves, and the lack of depth and variety is grating. Flashes here and there suggest that The Neighbourhood are capable of writing good pop music. It’s just that they miss the target far too much.