THE NEIGHBOURHOOD, Roundhouse – Evening Standard, 22 March 2016

There’s surprisingly little sunshine in the music of California band The Neighbourhood. “I hate the beach,” sang Jesse Rutherford on his group’s big hit, Sweater Weather – a song about sharing your jumper in the cold. It was one of America’s biggest hits of 2013.

He was dressed for his holidays at least, in a flared white suit and a chest tattoo so extensive that from the balcony I thought he was wearing a T-shirt. Dancing extravagantly, all knees and elbows, he was the focal point for a fluid band identity that could encompass his high, sweet boy band vocals, hip hop beats on Let It Go and what looked suspiciously like an old school drum solo during Wiped Out!, the title track of their recent second album.

An audience principally comprised of teenage girls seemed to have taken to their pop tunes first and foremost, screaming loudest at the arrival of Daddy Issues, a slow burner with the sweetest of choruses. Afraid snuck the F-word into what was otherwise a masterclass in mass appeal.

Yet they still put their dark side front and centre. Having made all their videos in black-and-white, they have refused to appear on TV shows that wouldn’t film them in monochrome, and here were lit only by white lights. Like five male Lana Del Reys, they blotted out the California sun with something more unsettling and bleak.

Rutherford spoke little, his band ignored anything so showbiz as an encore, and the closing song, RIP 2 My Youth, left fans with the cheery message: “You can play this at my funeral.” Beach boys they are not, but their washed-out atmospherics had a shadier appeal.

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