The 1975, ‘The 1975′ – Album Review
The maxim that the journey is always more interesting than the destination properly contextualizes the 1975’s self-titled debut album. Up to this point, they’d garnered considerable Internet buzz, rapidly becoming one of those bands everyone talks about but no one actually knows about.
This is primarily because the U.K. outfit prefaced the album with four EPs of varying styles released in the span of a year. Individually, each set only hinted at the 1975’s overall sound, and collectively, they were met with increasingly heightened expectations of what the band might produce in a full-length effort.
Thanks to the success of tracks like ‘Sex’ and ‘Chocolate,’ the group became a topic of conversation on the blogosphere and landed on numerous “bands to watch” lists. Almost overnight, the 1975 became Internet darlings. The all-too-common backdrop of “overhyped band ready to take the world by storm” made a backlash feel all but imminent, but despite that palpable pressure, ‘The 1975′ delivers the goods from its opening moments to the whimpering conclusion.
The album’s 16 tracks are perhaps best described as a calculated pallet of emotion. The tone appropriately changes as the record progresses, and just as they did with their EPs, the band works in brief interludes to help with transitions. Everything about the record — Matthew Healy’s reverberating vocals, the gently distorted guitar, the heavy bass and the synthesized ancillary effects — recalls the giants of ’80s pop, among them Billy Idol, the Cure and Prince. While pairing pointed nostalgia with a straightforward approach isn’t anything novel — it’s a familiar trick in popular culture — the 1975 make stale bread taste refreshing again.
If the beginning of the record seems familiar, it’s because the first half features polished re-recordings of the singles from the aforementioned EPs. The production of these tracks is significantly upgraded, and the crunchy guitar on ‘Sex’ is reminiscent of fellow British band You Me At Six’s song ‘Save It For the Bedroom.’
The album picks up the momentum of the previous releases and gains even more steam in the second act. Bassist Ross Macdonald brings the heavy on ‘Heart Out,’ a catchy guitar riff colors the verses of ‘Settle Down’ and Healy belts cathartic lyrics in the pop-fueled ballad ‘Robbers.’ On the upbeat track ‘Girls,’ the band manages to fuse all of these elements together, making a big noise before giving listeners a respite in the disc’s third act — the weakest part of the record.
And with that, it must be noted there are a few cringe-worthy moments found on ‘The 1975.’ ‘M.O.N.E.Y.’, for example, is an ill-fated venture into prog rock. From a thematic perspective, the group hits on all the usual tropes — Healy laments in lengthy prose about urban decay, teenage angst, drug addiction, love and possible infidelity. He spends half the album manically brooding about these issues and the other half capriciously pining for change, singing all the while in a compelling tenor.
If there’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about this record, the 1975 seem like four young musicians poised to outlast most of their contemporaries in terms of staying power. Somehow, they make “conventional” cool again.