Review Summary: The 1975's second EP evenly highlights their strengths and weaknesses.
The second EP released by The 1975 continues with the same basic atmospheric vibe that its predecessor did. The electronics are a bit more heavy this time around, and the guitars are significantly more overdriven and impressive when they come in. There's also more of an emphasis on anthemic choruses and bridges than in the debut EP. Interestingly, the EP divides itself into electronica and pop songs, with the first two tracks favouring experimentation and the last two showing off the stellar pop songwriting that got the band where they are today.
"Intro/Set 3" doesn't start the record off especially well. It's almost entirely electronic, using loops and a few electro-pop tropes that aren't very compelling. It certainly doesn't have the charm or beauty of "Facedown", and begins a theme that would become prevalent in their following two EPs: compensating for sub-par songwriting with atmosphere and production value. Even this early it's clear that this band is very hit-or-miss. The second song, "Undo" adds an interesting R&B sound reminiscent of Passion Pit using enhanced finger snaps, but fails to be very catchy and goes on a bit too long. The high production quality bails the band out a bit, but the genre the song is based in is a bit too reliant on strong vocal performances, something Matt Healy has never really excelled at.
However, the band seemingly rewards you for making it through seven minutes of mediocre pop with two absolutely fantastic tracks. "Sex" and "You" sound almost completely divorced from the first two songs, guitar-driven and. "Sex" is a perfect tempo and uses singer Healy's voice perfectly, minimizing its annoying tendencies (mostly). The lyrics are standard indie-pop fare, but the chorus is inspired and all of the instruments fall perfectly into place. Again the production is pitch-perfect, in fact better here than the mix that would become the lead single of the band's much-anticipated 2013 debut album. The guitars are crisp but heavy, the synths not-quite subtle but not overbearing. "You" follows in a similar vein. Influenced heavily by U2, the song starts with a bare-bones but pretty guitar lick that builds to an exceptional chorus. The lyrics aren't anything too special, but they complement the anthemic sound perfectly. The presence of this song almost justifies getting this EP on its own.
The final two songs prove what direction the band is best served heading in: while they may stumble through synth messes and plodding electronica, The 1975 are an exceptional and promising pop group who are deservedly on the cusp of blowing up. While Sex
may expose the most pressing issues with their musical choices, it does deliver some of the best electronic indie-pop seen in years.