Wednesday 27 November 2013

The 1975 Album Review

The fact that The 1975 have been playing together since 2002 creates a different expectation to this debut album than what most get, although it's stupid to pin 10 years to any album, especially one from a band that doesn't wear it on it's sleeve. The 1975 have only been releasing material since early last year, culminating in four EPs; with pickings from them alongside new material going into this debut album. This 10 years doesn't confuse the music as much as it confuses the band itself; even with so much time together The 1975 don't have an identifiable image; I found out about the band from two fan girls on facebook and not a marketing team, and even after spending time with their album I get the feeling The 1975 still don't quite know what they're gunning for.

The sound here has a solid beat, and a couple of the riffs flow well too, not that any of it sticks in the mind; the compositions are slower than your average pop and simpler too. The whole album has a quiet, lonely feeling that would work better in a bedroom confessional-type setting, but the band's aim is too broad to tap into this. Instead the production has a synthesized 80s feel to, so much that the opening of "Heart Out" sounds like it could quickly morph into Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmas". It blends all the instruments together, adding more weight to the guitars and making everything shake when the drums hit, yet losing individual elements in the mix, allowing tracks to drone on, and sometimes burying Matthew Healy's vocals underneath the production, making them near-impossible to understand.

Yet for a band so focused on (and who's highlights come with) glistening pop, the band feels insecure in giving it to us. The opening track, brain shatteringly called "The 1975" is the opening track of a very different album, the over-bearing production qualifying the track as psychedelic-lite. Tracks like this show up throughout the album like the instrumental "12" (it's the 12th track on the album, get it?) there for padding, not because there isn't enough music here (there's 16 tracks in total) but to make The 1975 look bigger than they are. "Menswear" takes two minutes for the vocals to kick in yet when we get there it's a pop track as throwaway as most of the others; The 1975 want us to believe they're a lot more than just a pop band, at least something more experimental and meaningful, and they've certainly listened to albums that have done that before - the universe-of-possiblilities-type scope of instrumental "An Encounter" brings to mind "Here Comes The Night II" on Arcade Fire's latest - but they never put enough meat on the bones to make this album anything more than disposable pop, which they almost look down on.

When they're not looking down but accepting simpler arrangements The 1975's real talents come through; the highlights are "The City" and "Heart Out" which are fun if unmemorable. The names of many tracks are simply the name of the subject we're on: "M.O.N.E.Y" "Sex" "Girls" "Talk!"; a lot of the lyrics here don't illicit much brain movement but when they're writing well The 1975 come across as a more bleak version of OneRepublic by which I mean they've got the pop-rock formula down pretty well: little small talk, focus on the emotionally connecting lines. The best lyrical work here is in "M.O.N.E.Y" which describes a bad night with too much drinking, the lyrics never transcend quick-relations but they throw out lines that flash straight in your eyes (ears?): "He doesn't like it when the girls go/Has he got enough money to spend?" and "He's just been barred for that blues he was smoking/And then he barks: it's my car I'm sleeping in", and later on the band goes into even more relatable territory, at least to youngsters who aren't aware their youngsters, with lines like "She's got a boyfriend anyway" and "Why don't you take your heart out instead of living in your head" which border on manipulation but for the purposes of the songs here gets the point across perfectly.

What I'm trying to sum up here is that The 1975 don't/doesn't harm anyone, although I really wish it/they did. It want's to be pop but there's catchier stuff out there, and despite this being a band that's been together for 10 years there's much more confident stuff out there too. When the album aims for something more it just weighs it's other parts down. As a building block this debut feels blank, and doesn't really point to any future for the band if they continue to be on the fence like this. It's got catchy moments though, which is really all I can say.

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