An artist can be distinct and original and still produce pleasant work. Many do not realize this, and equate pleasing art or music with shallowness.
Those who hold to this opinion have a flawed view of originality: It’s not something that one comes to by searching for it. Rather, it reveals itself to an artist once they have started working at their art. Seattle-based band Neighbors has this sort of originality, and it’s a downright amazing listening experience.
Neighbors’ style is reminiscent of ’80s alternative bands, such as Talking Heads, that pioneered and shaped the alternative genre. Often, to revolutionize a specific genre, musicians will look at what that genre was like at its conception, and then provide their own take. Neighbors’ take is one that explores the upbeat side of ’80s psychedelia along with the raw energy of classic rock.
Neighbors Channels Talking Heads, CCR
“Secret” introduces one of the band’s musical themes, one that characterizes the entire album: a dominant bass guitar. The grungy, distorted electric guitar gives a consistent backing to the song, and the uneven tempo is loose and easy, making the track both mesmerizing and energizing at the same time.
A mellow ballad, “It’s Hard” chronicles a musician’s rise to fame, facing a changing perceptions from old friends and acquaintances along the way. As opposed to Talking Heads in “Secret,” here the band channels Creedence Clearwater Revival, particularly the quintessential “Down on the Corner” bassline. The track is much more even-keeled overall, but still has that note of spontaneity that seems to characterize Neighbors.
“Angel O” has the same distorted grungy guitar style as in “Secret,” but extends the distortion to the vocals, completing the psychedelic musical experience. In keeping with tradition for what seems like most psychedelic songs, it’s got that random laughter and static buzzing at the end. While bizarre, it’s the kind of touch that’s entirely relevant in psychedelic music, and really adds to it.
Though they borrow, sometimes heavily, from what has come before, the sound that Neighbors has developed is ultimately so original and pure that they’re right on track to becoming the next iconic band of their genre. Originality isn’t something that’s planned.
As we see in the case of Neighbors, it comes naturally with talent.