Dom Reviews: “Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones” (2020)

The Neighbourhood is a pop-rock, indie rock, and alternative rock band that first burst onto the scene in 2013 with their debut album “I Love You”.

"Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones" album art courtesy of:
“Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones” album art courtesy of:

Their song “Sweater Weather” became an indie-rock phenomenon and is what really first got people talking about the band. They followed this album up with a mixtape that they released in 2014 titled “#000000 & #FFFFFF”. This project never really did much for me and didn’t get a lot of great reception from critics or fans. 

However, just when it seemed like The Neighbourhood would be another one-hit-wonder, they released their fantastic and captivating second studio album “Wiped Out!” which cemented The Neighbourhood as one of my favorite acts. This album was a step up from their already unique sound on their first record and is one of my favorite albums ever. Critics and fans seemed to agree as well. As for their self-titled follow-up project in 2018, I could take or leave some of those songs. 

I was pretty interested to see where The Neighbourhood would go with their fourth studio album “Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones” because each album had a bit of a different vibe. It was clear from the singles that the band was going into a more acoustic-driven sound, which was all but confirmed by the album artwork with an acoustic guitar in Rutherford’s hands.. Although the electronic elements that the band has always played with do appear on this album, I would say that this is the band’s most low-key and guitar-driven project. 

In fact, it seems like “The Neighbourhood” as we know them don’t even exist on this album. Instead, they are replaced with singer Jesse Rutherford’s character “Chip Chrome” backed by his mysterious band “The Mono-Tones”. It is reminiscent of other concept albums that invoke a unique character such as Ziggy Stardust in David Bowie’s “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars”.


The album opens with the strange and somewhat haunting instrumental simply titled “Chip Chrome”. The 30-second intro is soaked in nothing but glistening, disorienting synths. It’s inoffensive in itself but really doesn’t do much in terms of setting the scene of the album or adding much to the experience. I’ll usually skip this song on casual listens.

“Pretty Boy” is an endearing first cut that has some soft drums, dreamy guitars, a bouncing bassline, and even some subtle strings in the background. The synths in the latter half of the song add a lot to build out the track’s serene and calming sound. It has a really compelling vocal performance from Rutherford as he pours out his heart for the person he loves. It is a very heartfelt and cute opener overall with quite personal lyrics. The song gives you the feeling that everything in the world will be fine as long as you stick with the people you love. For some reason, the song ends with a terrifying shriek in the distance that sounds like someone is being attacked. Maybe I’m missing some sort of deeper meaning in this choice, but I hate that it’s there. It always makes me think it’s coming from something happening around me in the real world. Other than that it’s a really good song.

“Lost in Translation” begins with a sample of “Wish That You Were Mine” by the R&B vocal group The Manhattans before bursting into a fun, groovy, and extremely danceable track. I love the drums and piano on this song, especially on the hits in the chorus. I also enjoy the half-time tempo switch-ups to make the song feel more dynamic. The ending of the song is in this half-time feel with some added synths to make it feel even grander. This is definitely one of the standout tracks on this album. It’s a joy to sing along to and gives the record more life with its disco-inspired vibes. 

“Devil’s Advocate” is another highlight of the album. The drums and the extremely catchy guitar riff that run throughout the entire song help keep it driving forward. It’s a mid-tempo song that makes you feel like a bada*s when you listen to it while taking a walk. The vocal performance is sharp on the verses and oddly creepy on the choruses while simultaneously bleeding with personality. Speaking of personality, the little electronic bits and sound effects that are sprinkled throughout the song add a lot to the atmosphere. I haven’t quite figured out what the lyrics mean as they’re a bit strange and cryptic, but I honestly like that about the song. When the band turns up the gain on the guitars in the outro of the song, it makes for a strong, loud, and satisfying end.

Photo Courtesy of:
Photo Courtesy of:

“Hell or High Water” bleeds Spongebob Squarepants vibes with its dreary guitars in the background. If you don’t understand what I mean by this, you simply have to listen to the song to understand. The added background vocals are a nice touch and the solo on the outro of the song (which has some sort of distorted instrument– I’m not quite sure what instrument it is) is adorable. The song puts a smile on my face but I could also understand why people wouldn’t like this one. It’s pretty barebones in comparison to some of the other tracks on this album and some may find the Spongebob-esque vibes to be a bit annoying, but I enjoy this track overall.

“Cherry-Flavored” was the excellent first single for this album and it still remains as a highlight. The guitars are once again a highlight on this track. They are, like many of the songs on this album, soaked in the phaser effect with loads of reverb to give it a dream-like and “floaty” sound. The song feels like drifting away into a dream. I especially like when the chorus hits and the mix opens up with some electronic drums elements thrown in and some incredible ghost-like background vocals. The acoustic drums are produced really well on this song and Rutherford’s vocals sound great and confident. Lyrically, the song is about slowing down and taking control of one’s life, which is a message that a lot of us can relate to as we take the time to reflect during the global pandemic. If there was a song that encapsulates the vibe of this album, it would be this song. I couldn’t have chosen a better first single for this album.

“The Mono-Tones” is… weird to say the least. I’m still not even sure if I like this track to be quite honest. It’s more of an interlude-type track. Lyrically, it’s about wanting to shut off from the rest of the world. Sonically, it has some strange, pitched-up vocals that I think are supposed to sound like a female’s voice but I’m not certain what the reason for this is. They’re a bit annoying but overall I don’t mind the aesthetic of the track with the drums that sound like they were recorded in a janitor’s closet from one room over and the drunk guitars. The singing does get a bit annoying after a while, though.

“BooHoo” throws a huge curveball in the track listing. It ditches the guitar-driven, moody, and retro feel that the previous songs established and swaps it out for a bouncy pop/R&B instrumental complete with synths and vocal effects. It totally doesn’t fit the vibe of the album but I would be lying if I said I didn’t like the song. The chorus is super catchy, Rutherford’s delivery on the verses is fun, and the background vocal flourishes add so much to the song. The song doesn’t really go anywhere meaningful after the second verse and it does feel a bit “one-note”, but it’s still a fun listen regardless. I predict that new listeners will either love or hate this song. 

“Silver Lining” takes us back to the acoustic drums and reverb-soaked guitars that we are used to from the album. I absolutely love the production on this track. The guitars ring out for a while with each long strum and what sounds like a muffled marimba (or perhaps that, too, is a guitar) of sorts creates a great atmosphere on the first verse. The keys on the second verse keep it feeling fresh as well. The hook isn’t nearly as memorable as on some of the other tracks, but it’s still a joy to sing along with. What really sells the song for me is the switch up towards the end of the song. All of sudden, everything slows down and the drums hit hard with the guitars while a solo begins. It’s similar to what “Lost in Translation” did with the tempo change. Unfortunately, it doesn’t last long before the song cuts out almost all the instrumentation and it ends with just Rutherford and a guitar. It’s nice, but I would have preferred a bigger ending. It felt like a bit of a tease.

“Tobacco Sunset” is the longest song on the album and it’s a slow-burner. It begins with about 20 seconds of atmosphere and no instruments. To me, this just makes a long song a bit longer for no good reason. As the guitars come in, you immediately get Johnny Cash vibes, right down to the vocal melodies. In the background you get these beautiful, high pitched and spacey melodies to fill out the space. It makes you feel like you’re on horseback in the desert. As the song goes on, the track expertly adds in more and more instrumentation to give the song a natural crescendo up until the song’s end. It is the most cinema-ready song the band has ever made. The instrumental breaks are so dreamy and beautiful that I find my mind letting go at moments during the song. Starting at 3 minutes and 43 seconds, you get one of the best moments on the album. A violin solo enters and the twinkling piano keys create such vivid images of a desert in the nighttime for me that I can almost feel the dirt and sand on my feet. I was afraid going into the song that it wasn’t going to win me over with its slow tempo and dreary nature. Sure enough, the soundscape that the band creates on this track made me love the song in the end.

The closing track “Middle of Somewhere” might be my favorite song on the album. It’s simple yet builds on itself as the song progresses from just Rutherford and a guitar to multiple atmospheric guitars and synths, electronic sounds, and backing vocals. Rutherford’s voice is right up next to your ear in the mix making it seem like he’s in the same room as you before getting more and more distanced as the mix opens up. It goes from unassuming to gorgeous. It makes my soul want to leave my body and float to the heavens–in a good way. It feels like the walls of the room you are sitting in are levitating far away. Not only that, but the song is super catchy, expertly written, and is a perfect length. You really have to listen to this song for yourself to see what I’m talking about.

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Photo Courtesy of:

Final Verdict

Although I found “Chip Chrome & The Mono-Tones” to be less consistently exciting and interesting as 2015’s “Wiped Out!”, The Neighbourhood’s latest album is a low-key and occasionally gorgeous listen for anyone looking for a relatively easy listen outside of a few missteps in the tracklisting. 

Rating Scale:

0 – 4 = Negative feeling toward the record

5 = Middle-of-the-road

6 – 10 = Positive feeling toward the record

Final Rating = 6.9/10