The Neighbourhood released their full album recently ‘Chip Chrome & the Mono-Tones’ and it’s the perfect vibe for the summer. Hear me out now. This year is a godawful mess and one of the few things that have saved our sanity is new music. For some, it’s Joji’s heart-wrenchingly beautiful new album, and for some like myself, it’s the Neighbourhood’s new album. Telling the story of a silver-man named ‘Chip Chrome’, the music in the album speaks to you on a spiritual level. It’s this feeling of helplessness, of feeling as if time itself is a redundant blurry concept and you don’t know what you’re looking for. Many reviewers have called it the band’s least cohesive work, but I personally feel like that fits well within the time we’re living in. We’re Chip Chrome, searching for meaning, and through the songs, we find some. Let’s go through each song in the order they were on the album. The story Chip Chrome paints is a unique one and somehow resonates with each one of us.
This is just static noise that we will hear before ‘Pretty Boy’ comes on. Even though it’s just an intro to the album and one of the songs, it’s still important for us to hear. We are being introduced to the world of ‘Chip Chrome’ and this is time to buckle in your seatbelts because it’s surely a ride worth remembering.
The most romantic song in the entire album, personally, is ‘Pretty Boy’. We know the story is about Chip Chrome and how he’s yearning and aching for love so that he can find some purpose in his life.
He’s painted on complete silver in an effort to attract attention to himself so that he can receive the validation each one of us needs. But there’s another musician, with a cowboy attire, that’s taking in more viewers. With Chip Chrome in despair, he meets a waitress who he later sees in his imagination when’s home alone and feeling lonely.
We’re all ‘Pretty Boy’ in the sense that we need something to hold on to when everything around us is going to ruins:
Even if my heart stops beating
You’re the only thing I need, ooh, with me
Even if the Earth starts shaking
You’re the only thing worth taking, ooh, with me
Even if the sky’s on fire
Got you here, it’s alright, ooh, with me
It’s the testament that as long as we have that special something or someone, we could find peace with our surroundings, even if we don’t have long to live:
As long as I got you, yeah
I’m not afraid to die
The song’s tune is melodramatic, a peaceful symphony that can even get you to calm down a bit and perhaps even dwell in your aching for something that you need.
Lost in Translation
It’s when we are trying to find love or meaning yet we can’t communicate what we desire. We’re simply put, ‘Lost in Translation’.
For this, chip Chrome and his band travel to a different era with only Chip easily identifiable. The music genre seems to have completely shifted to 1970’s synth-pop where music was spectacular yet the instrumentals were mixed in with the vocals in an almost hazy way where there’s no proper distinction. In ‘Pretty Boy’ Chip Chrome has identified what he really needs but we get to see that he’s having a hard time conveying that:
I’ve been gettin’ lost in translation
Trouble keepin’ up communication
We were havin’ fun, now I can’t wait to be done
Chip Chrome isn’t getting what he wants anymore. He’s trying to activate something that may just not exist anymore:
sick of people telling me “be patient”
i’m trying to light the fire with no flame
tryna figure out what you’re saying to me
i wish i didn’t need you to explain
It speaks to so many of us who are perhaps holding onto something that’s no longer there. It could be a relationship, a career, a friend, or just a false belief in a vision that may not be for us.
My favorite song in this album is probably ‘Devil’s Advocate’. The instrumentals of this song are just unlike we’ve seen with The Neighbourhood, it’s daring, it’s bold and it transforms you into someone else. It’s like when in quarantine we’re often thinking of all the painful memories in our lives and reevaluating if we were ever good, to begin with. We’re so fixated at our flaws that it keeps us up all night. Following with ‘Lost in Translation’, ‘Devil’s Advocate’ shows how deeply flawed we can be:
I’m the devil’s advocate
You don’t know the half of it
Good luck tryna manage it
If a God is a dog, and a man is a fraud, then I’m a lost cause
The up-beats in this song are devilish and they tap into the dark side within us that gives in to the temptation. It’s almost as if we are accepting the worst versions of ourselves. Just like Chip Chrome is.
trade the whip out for a bike
designer for some nikes
switch the stripper for a wife
black tie for a white t
i’ve been moving lightspeed
i don’t want to try keep it cool like ice tea
if i seem shy cause you seem shiesty
Chip Chrome is almost changing who he is just to be accepted, and he believes that the dark version is perhaps who really is. Just like we do from time to time.
Hell or High Water
The story of Chip Chrome is one of redemption. It’s one where we as Chip are understanding of our own flaws, in fact too self-aware. Yet just like Chip, we are trying to get to the finish line. We simply can’t succumb to the darkness:
I went through Hell, to get to high water
And now I’m tryin’ not to drown
Each time I fail, it makes me try harder
I’ll reach the stars next time around
We’re going to fail so many times but that’s just going to push us to be harder. Props to The Neighbourhood for such a deeply meaningful message.
The vocals of the song imply that Chip chrome is worn out but he’s still holding onto hope, he still wants to get to high water despite hitting rock bottom. The ending music of the song shows that he’s not going up.
In ‘Pretty Boy’, we see that Chip Chrome has found her love in the form of Cherry. That’s Dev Carlson by the way. The actual girlfriend of the main singer of The Neighbourhood, Jesse Rutherford. It’s beautiful that he dedicated major elements of the album to her:
I’ve been gettin’ high
It’s keeping me low now
I’m doin’ it alone now
I think I gotta slow down
And I know I
I gotta take control now
But I sold my soul a long time ago
I feel like a ghost now
It’s us selling our souls to something that we are addicted to. It could be anything to you, actual drugs or social media, or the fake benefits of capitalism. We are all ghosts. It’s the conversations and the connections that we have that keep us sane:
Cherry flavored conversations with you
Got me hanging on
Down to Earth from all the waiting
Even though we’ve been tempted by the devil and even fallen to our worst desires, we can still come back to ground reality.
This is sung by an almost robotic and very auto-tuned female voice singing almost in despair. It’s a short song, not artistically vocal yet still shares a depth in it:
voices in my head, telling me to make a choice
everyone yellin, makin too much noise
i can’t myself anymore, alright
This feels like we have brought inside Chip Chrome’s heads, or perhaps our own. There are so many voices telling us what to do and how to do it that it’s getting harder to concentrate. That is true for this Information age where we are flooded with so much news whenever we open our phones. Along with targeted advertisements and political campaigns, there’s just so many ‘voices’ that we come to hear. That could be why The Neighbourhood used a robotic voice since so much of that information is through our phones and computers.
It could also mean the very voices of just ourselves, that were perhaps influenced by someone else, or they’re just ours. The conflicting things our minds say, the arguments we keep on having with ourselves, and the internal struggles.
Jesse Rutherford’s voice is blended in with the instrumentals seamlessly that it feels like it was perfectly molded for the instrument. The song stands on its own as well, giving off a very 90’s vibe with a softness. The beats inside imply Chip Chrome got what he wanted and he’s calming down his love:
i heard what’s happenin lately
why i’m so down
but we’re still happenin,
baby right here right now
Chip is comforting his Cherry love despite him losing his cool. Though, he’s quite proud that she’s hers:
anywhere i take her everybody wants a piece
i don’t even blame ’em, that’s my baby,
she’ll make anyone smile
There are some hints of Chip’s struggles with mental health as well with the verses:
you hate it when i overreact
i wish i didn’t act like that
i always feel under attack
It’s becoming especially hard to stay sane during these quarantine times. Especially harder for those already dealing with mental health conditions. That’s another way Chip is like us.
If a song could give be eternal peace, this would be it. The soft vocals of Jesse Rutherford make you feel at ease and make you hopeful to find the silver lining in your situation.
The song starts with a rhythmic beat and comforts the listener telling them exactly what they want to hear:
had your heart on your sleeve the last time
took it so seriously the last time
gave everybody a piece the last time
& you said it would be the last time
This is a situation that almost everybody has been in, an awful relationship, or any bond where you gave too much and didn’t get much in return. But Chip shared that we can find a silver lining in a situation and once we do, that’s enough hope we need.
Just like Chip is finding in his situation.
If you find that silver linin’
You should know what that means
You’ve been movin’ fast, splittin’ at the seams
If you find that silver linin’, you’re already in deep
There’s another piece, that was buried underneath
This is also moving towards self-love:
told ’em they could believe in you now you just gotta believe it too
The Neighbourhood manages to bring you to another blissful place with the use of their guitar strokes and the now husky and soft voice of Jesse Rutherford. ‘Tobacco Sunburst’ is more poetic and charming. Jesse’s voice creeps into your mind and paints a beautiful story about how eyes have a whole world of their own:
lookin in your brown eyes
i thought i found myself damn
it’s been a while lookin in your blue eyes
never knew i’d lose myself in the tobacco sunburst sky
There’s also the addition of a violin which elevates the song followed by Chip’s determination to not giving up:
i don’t want to waste any more time
watchin those flames burn bright
Middle of Somewhere
The Neighbourhood’s album paints a complete picture, from start to finish. ‘Middle of Somewhere’ seems like an apt closure to the story of Chip Chrome. Chip found what he wanted, he’s ‘inside’ now but he still can’t escape the thoughts inside his head.
I was on the outside looking in
Now I’m on the inside trying to stay
Out of my head
I need peace of mind
It talks about growth often means that you realize that ‘good things never last’. But you still have to experience different circumstances before learning what you need to learn. The eternal dilemma of life.
You gotta live before you learn
Now I’m somewhere far
Away from where I started
With no point of return
But I’m turning
But now both Chip and the one he found is also stranded in the ‘Middle of Nowhere’:
Landed in the middle somewhere
Now you’re stranded in the middle somewhere (oh yeah)
Wow, if this isn’t every one of us now. We are always trying to belong somewhere, just to fit in. But it’s hard to do and in the end, everyone is running around to find it, feeling like an alien all the while.
Always running away
Looking for an escape
Everyone is an alien
When you’re trying to find your place
Perhaps it’s okay if all of us trying to find our ‘place’ and who we are. Chip’s whole journey was trying to fill something inside him, and he found it, yet he realizes that he’s still not completely content with what he gets. Like Chip, we’re still always trying to ‘look for an escape’.
When we have people by our side, it’s a ‘Silver Lining’ but we still often end up where we didn’t quite expect.
The Neighbourhood is telling a tale we are all feeling in this generation, especially during a confusing time for everyone everywhere. We’re never satiated with what we got yet we try and try again. Just like Chip Chrome is.
It’s a deeply meaningful message and by The Neighbourhood sharing it with us, it’s comforting to know we’re not alone in feeling this way.
How did the album make you feel?