The Neighborhood – Our Voices Choked With Fireworks
A complete and very enjoyable pop/rock album with upbeat, mature songwriting.
Of the 14 tracks on The Neighborhood’s Our Voices Choked With Fireworks, ten are full pop-rock songs (four are intros, outros or interludes). Of those ten full songs, only four of them start out the song with the lead guitar riff (of those four, two are acoustic songs). In short, this band loves to build up their songs from nothing to something – they chose to immediately introduce the lead melody of a rock song only twice on a fourteen-song album.
The reason I point it out is that their enjoyment of patience and subtlety is exactly what sets The Neighborhood apart from other bands. The Neighborhood is great because they can wait up to three minutes to introduce the killer line that makes the song. They make you wait. And that is brilliant.
In addition to being astonishingly well-written for a first album, their sound is unique. Along with patience in songwriting comes patience in performance – rarely do the guitars freak out into clichéd strumming or chord mashing. They rock by having a ferocious drummer in Matt Duckworth, filling up the sound with lots of complexity and by playing really, really loud. The fact that there are very few instances where they kick it into all-out mode makes those few times even more precious: the Who-esque ending of “Your Longest Day,” the final chorus of the rip-roaring “Hot Water” and the conclusion of the gargantuan 4-minute-plus (!) crescendo in “The Television Set” being notable examples.
Vocalist Phil Rice has an instantly recognizable voice – a warm, resonant voice with a huge range that can turn from comforting and mellow to harsh and punishing on a dime. It’s an amazing instrument, and it puts the Neighborhood’s music in a whole other level.
The bass work is prominent throughout, and it is the primary way that it is possible for the Neighborhood’s pieces to extend as long as they do without delivering the payload. On the psychedelic, otherworldly “Oh the Lights, Oh the Colors,” Mai delivers a coiling, groove-heavy bass intro that sets the tone of the song before Rice and his guitar come in thirty seconds later. It’s one of the best tracks on the album, as the separated strumming of the guitar, the grooving bass and solid drumming produce a song that is a joy to listen to.
The Neighborhood has rock-fist fast songs (the aforementioned sweaty dance-a-thon “Hot Water,” “Stand Up, Chin Up, and Say”), beautiful slow songs (the gorgeous “That’s Okay,” the delicate closer “Fireworks”) and amazing pop songs (“Slingshots and Cannons,” “The Television Set”). It’s a total and complete album in every sense of the word – energetic performances of memorable and exciting songs that fit within a distinct and unique sound while still maintaining a wide variety of moods and tempos. There’s not much more you can ask for in a band.