Review Summary: "Hello Chattanooga! Are you ready to rock?"
Well this is fitting.
Here I am, knee deep in an album-by-album exploration of British rock, about midway through the 90s, and out comes an album featuring four expensive haircuts that have been playing together since primary school, thick Manchester accents, a little bouncy lad rock, loud as hell guitars, and sights set on an American breakthrough. I bet my editor didn’t even get through the first sentence of their biography before firing this album off to me. So after a few buzz building EPs and a top 20 UK single we have The 1975’s eponymous debut album, it must be the second coming of Britpop right"
predominately features heart on sleeve emoting over booming percussion and loudly mixed synth. The whole thing is made with a serious emphasis on sleek and sharp production. Sure, there’s a bit of Coming Up
era Suede and Oasis’ hooks-on-hooks in the mix but for the most part The 1975’s clearest influences would be new wave acts like Thompson Twins and Tears for Fears a.k.a. the exact
kind of bands Britpop sought to destroy. There are multiple saxophone solos on this thing for god sakes.
My guess is that The 1975 are too clever to attempt a Britpop comeback right now. A track titled “Mensware” suggests they’re all too aware of what happens when Britpop bands get it wrong and recent events suggest the inevitable Britpop revival is still a few years off (You guys all remember Viva Brother right" Anyone" Yeah, exactly.)
What The 1975
does particularly well is pick up where The Big Pink left off and make absolutely shamelessly huge pop music. The way The 1975 just go
for it, chorus after chorus after chorus, is their biggest strength. And on propulsive cuts like “The City” and “Heart Out” they wrap their fingers around something that could be a big deal. Lyrically, lead singer Matthew Healy looks to make a very generational statement with references to quasi-relationships, club drugs, Internet gossiping, and lots of heartsickness. “Pressure”, with its coolly airbrushed hook and wailing saxophone could have been the 3rd best song on Don Henley’s The End of the Innocence
. “Now we’re on the bed in my room,” yelps Healy on “Sex”, “And I’m about to fill his shoes/But you SAY NO!” That song in particular develops such an unstoppable momentum that its car crash finale sounds like the only way it could have ended.
It’s invigorating stuff but if all The 1975
had was stadium smashers it would be exhausting. What fill the album out is the cuts that are pitched halfway between interlude-adventurous and full cut development. On “Talk!” all the elements are arranged around a catchy cry of “Why do you talk so loud"” while chiming guitar and staggered handclaps rotate around the mix. “M.O.N.E.Y.” gently rolls and surfaces its hook over an airy, electronic flecked backing beat.
For a debut album, there are surprisingly few missteps. “Robbers” takes its titular metaphor so over the top that when Healy wails “Now everybody’s DEAAAAAAD!” at its climax he might mean that literally. Elsewhere “Girls” is so sunny and upbeat that it’s kind of nauseating. The 1975
is also packed with so many different styles – 2 step, dance pop, post-punk, synth rock – that, while exciting, it doesn’t hang together as a cohesive album all that well proving once again that you cant glue an album together with ambient interludes.
But the key issue with The 1975
and the one I see hurting the album in the long run is that it’s very slick.
At times this album doesn’t feel so much created as it does assembled. The fact that 7 of these tracks were pulled from previous test-tube EPs doesn’t help matters. Every hook, every melody, every trendy reference to drugs feel very picked over for maximum popularity. When things are this relentlessly poppy, the initial impact is very impressive but it’s charms wear off over time. Only in the coming months will The 1975
prove it has depth and staying power.
With their moody black and white music videos, Tumblr ready promotional photos and “omg so hot” lead singer, The 1975 are primed for stardom and, at the time of this writing, seem like they’re about to get it too, the album came in at number one in the UK midweek. The 1975
earns that chart placement by being a pop music smash, loaded with potential singles that are sure to please it’s target audience. Only, at times it’s hard to tell if that audience is music fans or record label executives.