Jesse Rutherford, of alternative band The Neighbourhood, presents us with alter ego “Chip Chrome” in a new record galvanized with love, self-reflection, and both external and internal conflict.
Two years after the release of Hard to Imagine The Neighbourhood Ever Changing, Jesse Rutherford surprises millions of fans with his recently established alter-ego, “Chip Chrome,” which, according to Apple Music, “took him almost three years to complete from idea to conception.”
Inspired by the late rock star David Bowie’s alien-like alter-ego Ziggy Stardust, Rutherford explained to Interview Magazine his reasoning for his futuristic-looking second-self.
“I’ve always been an in-between kind of fella. I’m not quite this, I’m not quite that. I’m not super masc, I’m not super feminine … I’m kind of a confused person, to be honest with you. Bowie has helped me route.” He also cited to Interview Magazine his interest in wanting to essentially take his creative ideas to the “full Ziggy extreme.”
Rutherford then explained to Apple Music his decision to remove himself from social media for nine months in 2019 and return with @chipchrome on Instagram, only to disappear again for seven months.
“Ziggy was a character very addicted to cocaine – and I would say that Chip is addicted to the internet, a product of addiction from social media for so many years,” he said.
“I’ve had the idea for Chip for about two and a half years… I killed @jesserutherford when I turned 27. Dead at 27,” Rutherford said to Interview Magazine while alluding to his former self as a member of the 27 Club.
Referencing their single “Middle of Somewhere,” which was released in January, Rutherford said to Interview Magazine, “It was gonna be its own thing. I had no intention of bringing Chip into The Neighbourhood.”
Rather, Rutherford intended to leave Chip as a solo act. He already had two previous solo albums, but decided to incorporate the alter-ego into The Neighbourhood when he showed up to the filming of the music video in “full Chip regalia,” which consisted of silver body paint, spandex, and glitter, blue and red eyeshadow, and a set of gold false teeth. All of these were designed by a friend of his, makeup artist Sydney Szramowski , according to the article.
While it’s unclear whether Chip will play an integral role in the band’s future endeavors or evolve into a solo act, the album falls nothing short of spectacular.
The choice to include the flamboyant character comes as a delight to me as a longtime follower of the band and I have to admit that the song which acquainted me with their existence was their 2013 single Sweater Weather” in all its Americana glory. But, we are far from those days, so here are the top five songs on The Neighbourhood’s Chip Chrome and the Mono-Tones:
“Hell or High Water”
Tinted with a combination of blues and country instrumental, “Hell or High Water” is a story about failure and resilience. Despite its slight resemblance to a tune you might hear in Spongebob Squarepants, it’s a catchy song that most of us can relate to when we pursue an unideal goal only to get knocked down by predicament. Like Rutherford, we simply must try harder the second, third, or even billionth go-around.
Sung entirely in pitch-shift, “The Mono-Tones” reveals the unfortunate reality of social hierarchies and standards, which affect all of us who hold certain socioeconomic positions that can either make us more or less powerful in society. “Whether you want to admit it or not, once you’re a part of a certain club, you get away with certain things and you get to cheat in certain ways,” Rutherford said to Apple Music.
“Lost in Translation”
Relationship issues, romantic or non-romantic, affect us all, and “Lost in Translation” captures the essence of our frequent human inability to communicate effectively, leading to internal and external clashes. Despite his clear frustration with miscommunication with a possible significant other, we hear him sing multiple times in a slowed-down articulation, “Do it to me one more time,” implying that miscommunication doesn’t always stop our tendency to gratify toward toxic interactions.
As someone who has a frequency with repeating the same mistakes, knowing the outcome, it can be easy to relate to Rutherford in this piece. Maybe one day I’ll do something about the toxic habit, but like Rutherford, I may just let it happen all over again … and again, and again.
“Cherry Flavoured” is a reminder for us to be confident in using our own voices, a lesson Rutherford had to learn when he realized he was “the one who was sugar-coating things, or trying to make them something else but just didn’t want to put in the work to really walk the walk,” he told Apple Music.
This is definitely a lesson to utilize the next time I forget to present myself as the confident person I say that I am.
Sometimes we need someone or something to remind us that it’s okay to switch directions. “Devil’s Advocate” does so in this song about finding appreciation within the minuscule parts of one’s self. Rutherford tells Apple Music, “You get an award or whatever it is, and it doesn’t fulfill you the way you had thought, because you’re thinking about it too much rather than enjoying the process on the way there.” In the tune, Rutherford mentioned trading out expensive items for less materialistic ones, which is a sentiment I hold to be vital. In a world dictated by a capitalistic system that values hustle culture and fame, it’s important to remind ourselves that a “black tie” can always be switched for a “white tee.”
Other than me, there are millions of fans who find the new album just as creative and satisfying. Nadia, the creator of @nbhdfacts on Instagram, a Neighbourhood fanpage with over 20,000 followers, has been a fan since she was 13 years old and is now 21.
She describes her favorite song as Tobacco Sunburst, a slow-paced song Rutherford told Apple Music is about being patient with people in order to make things work.
“There’s a lot of sadness expressed and I can tell heart and soul were put into every part of the song,” Nadia said. When asked about her opinion on Chip, she said, “I love Chip Chrome! This band is known for being really experimental with their looks and aesthetics … I love that Chip Chrome is another way for Jesse to express himself!”
Ariana Ascencio, an alum of the Chicago Children’s Choir, commented on the musical components of the album, explaining that there wasn’t an excessive use of auto-tone, which, in my opinion, would contradict the sound of their previous album Hard to Imagine The Neighbourhood Ever Changing that sounded much more funky as a whole.
She continued, saying, “They’re getting more of their undertone that isn’t instrumentally made and that’s in a lot of contemporary R&B and pop music. A lot of musical critics say that we’re … just getting sounds a computer can repeat. However, I don’t think the incorporations of these sounds messed with the quality of music on this album. I think it helped enhance the overall feel of the album without making it sound too much like pop music.”
This is an aspect that I think Rutherford valued when he emphasized his appreciation for a more soft and acoustic guitar sound in his song “Middle of Somewhere,” according to Apple News.
Ascencio didn’t fail to give credit where it’s due, in this case, to The Neighbourhood’s lead guitarist Zachary Abels. “The Neighbourhood’s guitarist never misses. I love his guitar riffs throughout the songs in the album and I strongly believe the guitar is what made this album still connect to The Neighbourhood’s original sound,” she said, referring to the band’s debut album I Love You. Like @nhbdfacts, Ascencio has been a fan of The Neighbourhood since their humble beginnings and that doesn’t seem to be changing anytime soon.
The Neighbourhood is a band which can be confusing in the most pleasant way when we consider their versatility and experimental decisions like introducing Chip Chrome. They went from a California aesthetic, singing about high waisted shorts, to a musical ensemble with Ziggy Stardust 2.0 as their lead singer. It’s almost as if their albums change the same way our horoscopes do, unpredictable but never really disappointing.
Header image by Phoebe Nerem.