The 1975 have made themselves quite the name ever since they first popped up on our radar about a year ago. Back then, they had just signed a deal with Dirty Hit and released the first of a string EPs which included the later hit single The City. It wasn’t until the release of the Sex EP though that I, and thousands of others, became truly hooked and their popularity just sky rocketed. Their eponymous debut has become one of the most anticipated releases this year and The 1975 have become Britains new flagship guitar band, and I must say it’s well deserved.
The 1975 have been around for over a decade changing their name frequently from Talkhouse to The Slowdown to Big Sleep to Drive Like I Do until their eventually settled for The 1975, a name that singer Matt Healy took from a poetry book. The 1975 really are a bunch of friends that started out a a school band. Singer Matt Healy, son of actors Tim Healy and Denise Welch, really is living his childhood dream of becoming a pop star. Working together for such a long time has enabled them to draw from their back catalogue and release 4 EPs and an album in merely two years.
Recorded at the Motor Museum in Liverpool, with Arctic Monkeys collaborator Mike Crossey, the album kicks off with the eponymous title track The 1975 which is a dark synth laden electronic opener with reverberated vocals pretty much like the ones on their EPs. It leads straight up to the hit single The City which has been re-recorded and given a fuller sound for the album. The City has a kind of Vampire Weekend guitar riff that makes you tap your foot to the beat and I’m pretty certain it contains a reference to Misfits (the show, not the band).
M.O.N.E.Y. is the band at their most RnB followed by Chocolate and Sex, the singles from their previous EPs. While Sex may not be their most arty or creative song, it is certainly their most memorable. It’s soaring guitars and explicit lyrics are bound to stick with anyone who ever dabbled in emo pop rock. Although my teenage years are more than a decade ago I can still relate to this song like I was still 16. Chocolate embraces a tropical electro pop sound similar to The City.
Talk! borrows from math rock with its frenetic beats while An Encounter is a solemn interlude separating the first half of the album from the second. Next up is Heart Out, a song frequently played during their shows. It’s been a favourite of mine for a while and I’m glad it finally gets a proper release. It has an infectious pumping bass line and features a saxophone that sound like from an 80s movie. Just imagine you play College’s A Real Hero at double speed. Settle Down is another frequent live song. It continues the 80s feeling but is a lot more jaunty than any of their other songs.
On to Robbers, which is equally often performed, they slow down the pace. This one is rather stripped which makes Healy’s distressed vocals stand out. He pushes his voice to the limits in either direction switching from high pitched falsetto to almost shouting. It’s not just his ever heart throb look but the anguished way in which he sings that give you the impression that he is indeed about to cry.
Girls is another funky tune that has Healy singing so fast that you can hardly make out the lyrics. 12 is another interlude before She Way Out takes the album back to to the beginning of the album with its steady percussions and tropical guitars and has already become one of my personal highlights. I can see this becoming a possible next single. The only thing I didn’t like about it was the fade out at the end, a song needs a proper ending.
Menswear is another new one that has the band experiment once more with synths and reverberated vocals. About half way through the song the drums kick in and Healy sings over sampled layers of his own voice. Certainly a highlight, this kind of creative playing around is what makes The 1975 stand out from other bands. Pressure is another 80s driven upbeat tune that rounds of the album.
The final track Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You departs from anything you’ve heard from The 1975 so far. It’s a solomn Gershwin-esque piano ballad that, according to Healy, is the most personal song on the entire album. It’s a reflection on leaving one’s parents home for good. Once again Healy’s vocal range amazes me. His vocals are so low on this one I wasn’t even sure it was him at all. And just like that, the album ends on a question mark and you just want to play it again. 16 tracks and not a single filler, the long work the album has been through has paid off.
The album is thoroughly produced. The order of the songs is a perfect fit and you wouldn’t even think about skipping any of them. When comparing the EP versions of The City, Chocolate and Sex to the album versions though everything sounds fuller and bigger. A new video for Sex released right in time for their US tour has been ill received by many old fans because it departs from the black and white DIY image the band had surrounded themselves with. It comes to mind that these changes were made to appeal to a larger, not to say the mainstream, audience. That in mind, the album leaves a bit of a bitter aftertaste for fangirls like myself.
Nonetheless, it still is a fantastic album, easily the best of the year so far. The 1975 are one of those few bands that actually contribute something new to the scene. Here’s hoping they can deal with the enormous success and continue what they are doing best.