Album Review: The 1975, ‘The 1975’

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These four lanky Brits may be making waves as The 1975, but don’t be fooled—their full-length debut owes far more to the 1980s. In recent interviews frontman Matthew Healy attributed his inspiration to John Hughes movies, a comparison that may sound familiar to fans of M83’s stellar 2009 release Saturdays=Youth. Unfortunately, the more nostalgic moments on The 1975 are actually closer to Youth’s 2011 follow-up, the bloated double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.

Photo Credit: Joshua Shultz
Photo Credit: Joshua Shultz

All the hallmarks are here: effected yelps of “Hey!”, expertly placed saxophone solos, Michael Jackson-esque guitar licks and saccharine keyboard pads color “Talk!”, “Heart Out”, Settle Down”, “She Way Out” and “Girls”. Yet it’s hard to get excited about some of these dance-floor stompers when the style’s been thoroughly tread over the past few years. The glossy sheen will surely help the band continue its rise in America but it also makes for a jarring transition from the murkier sonics of their recent EPs.

With 4 solid releases under their name between 2012 and now, The 1975’s come too far in cementing a distinct sound and tone to abruptly shift gears towards Pretty in Pink territory. In particular, 2012’s Sex served up a spectacular display of U2-meets-The Weeknd atmospherics married to unforgettable pop hooks. Its thrilling fusion of electronic-style drum patterns and cavernous guitar sounds is mostly absent, save for the underdeveloped but intriguing track “Menswear”.

To be fair, none of the sixteen songs are bad. These guys certainly have a knack for earworm melodies; the sing-song cadences on “M.O.N.E.Y.”, “Settle Down” and incoming single “Girls” prove irresistible over repeated listens. The 1975 is lyrically consistent, too, with wittier-than-average tales of young bodies in various states of undress, intoxication and crime. This album is littered with one-liners destined for a long shelf life on Tumblr. Take this back-and forth from “Girls”, for example:

“I said ‘No!’
‘Oh give it a rest, I could persuade you
I’m not your typical, stoned 18 year old
Give me a night I’ll make you’
‘I know you’re looking for salvation in the secular age, but girl I’m not your savior'”

The real issue, then, is the album’s awkward sequencing. Three woozy-sounding interludes placed evenly throughout the record—presumably in an attempt to establish some sort of running theme—lead only to incongruous transitions in mood and sound. And top-loading the track list with powerhouse singles “The City”, “Sex” and “Chocolate” preps the listeners for a climax that never arrives, though the melodrama of “Robbers” comes close. Healy’s vocal is unhinged and powerful, especially when he howls “Now everybody’s dead” at the top of his lungs.

The only other moment as stirring comes from album closer “Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You”, a heartbreaking message to Healy’s younger brother in the wake of their parents’ divorce. Driven by a lone, somber piano, the track feels entirely out of place here but its final lines are perhaps the strongest of all the album’s messy emotional confessions:

“I know it’s me that’s supposed to love you
And when I’m home you know I got you
Is there somebody who can watch you?”

The 1975 may not be the classic album fans hoped for, but its potent blend of sexual energy, arena-ready production value and catchy hooks will be enough for most. The record’s best moments are certain to survive all shuffled around on the playlists of over-stimulated, under-encouraged youth everywhere. And with this confounding track order, these promising pop songs may be better off that way.

3/5 stars

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