Review Summary: The 1975 is a striking pop album that revels in indulgence and excess.The 1975
deftly compresses a variety of influences ranging from Michael Jackson to The Smiths while still sounding distinct. While the record sounds more 80s than M83 ever has, it still shines with a stylish modern sheen that complements the subject matter perfectly. It's evident that it is an album eleven years in the making, as while the very pop-heavy style may turn people off, every decision is carefully deliberate and thematically appropriate. This album should not be dismissed as run-of-the-mill.
The songs themselves range from fairly good to excellent, thankfully devoid of the clunkers that marred each EP. The question asked by most fans leading up to the release of this album was whether they would lean on their pop tendencies or their more sonic R&B experimentations, and they seem to have embraced both. While they never really combine them effectively (although "Menswear" comes close), the happy middle ground is the short interludes placed evenly throughout the album. While they don't really add much, they are a nice addition to an already lengthy tracklist. The proper songs are very radio-friendly while still having bite past what one would expect from a typical synth-pop album. Matt Healy channels the dry cynicism of Morrissey a bit, especially on the peppy and insightful “Girls”, outlining the central themes of the album: sex, excess and domination. “I know you're looking for salvation in the secular age, but girl I'm not your savior,” While the subject matter may seem shallow, there's a glittery darkness beneath every sex-fuelled lyric.
The issue with this full-throttle pop sound is that when the songs aren't catchy they suffer considerably: “Pressure” goes all-in on pop appeal and falls fairly short, with its chorus only registering somewhat. “M.O.N.E.Y” contains the only cringe-worthy section of the album, a jarring bridge consisting of an electronically edited voice spelling out the main title. However, the preceding three minutes of the song are the closest to the electro-R&B of their past work, and it does sound very pleasant with the fancy production of Mike Crossey (Foals, Arctic Monkeys). The production value of this album is through the roof, but the shiny production only makes it more effective on every level. “Robbers”, which has album highlight written all over it suffers from melodrama, culminating in “Now everyone's dead”, a climax which falls surprisingly flat. His vocal performances, which range from slightly offputting to extremely fitting and energetic, are at their worst when he's forced to sing something dramatic.
Unfortunately, the best songs on this album were already released on the four EPs: “The City” returns as a standout with a heavier electronic punch than ever, sounding better than ever with pitch-perfect synthesizer and less annoying vocals. On the other hand, “Sex” loses a bit of heaviness and changes a bit from the previously released version, but the excellent production more than makes up for it. Those two songs remain the highlights, as the Tears for Fears inspired “Heart Out” and “Settle Down” have an uptempo appeal but are too fundamentally imperfect to beat them out.
glories in sex and excess, and it fits that it would wear its influences on its sleeve. While listeners will recognize Tears for Fears, The Smiths, Michael Jackson, and M83 among others, it somehow never fails to be an album distinctly its own. It may not be a classic, but it is one of the best pop albums of the year and one that should not be brushed past or overlooked.