Nah, I like plenty of bands that suffer from bad recording decisions (and call them out on it) ... the vast majority of songs recorded without the band members in the same room were just fine on this album. It's a crutch used to not think critically about the songs themselves, instead passing the blame.
I don't know. You compare Neighborhoods to any of the other albums they made, especially S/T, and it's obvious that them being in the same studio to flesh out the songs is what made them really work in every way. On the last album, it just seemed rushed. It works for some bands, and it didn't for them. Alot of the songs were duds, even if the album had a few classic tunes.