Album Review: The 1975 – The 1975

By on Monday, 2nd September 2013 at 12:00 pm
 

The 1975 album coverFrom this initial Bands to Watch I wrote in summer 2012, it’s been a whirlwind 12 months for a particular English band, including more gigs at SXSW 2013 than you can count on one hand, major post-SXSW hype, a major label record deal and oh, what about those screaming fangirls wherever they go, especially if their frontman is removing his jacket onstage? Who am I talking about? The 1975, of course. And now the boys from Manchester are now ready for their close-up. Unless you’re an established band that has been poking around for a while, the current de rigueur is to have an album of around 10 tracks and no more. ‘The 1975’ has 16 tracks: could they not self-edit, or is the album chock full of treasures? The former is a definite possibility, with the band’s singer/guitarist Matthew Healy and drummer George Daniel coproducing the album with Arctic Monkeys‘ collaborator Mike Crossey. But this is the real question on everyone’s minds as the title track, not even a minute and a half and sat at position #1, begins the album in a dreamy fashion.

As in White Lies‘ ‘Big TV’ released in August on Fiction (review here), the 1975 felt the need for two musical interludes, ‘An Encounter’ and ’12’. Besides providing a marker than you’ve passed another third of the album, there seems no particular reason for these and while they sound nice, they are filler. (Also weirdly, ‘Heart Out’ keep mentioning a tv. It always sounds weird to me to hear an Englishman say “tv” and not “telly”, so this was another way the 1975 album reminded me of the latest from White Lies.)

But let’s get to the meat of the album, the songs. The appearance of several songs that are already hit singles for the 1975 should come as no surprise. Given the live reception of ‘The City’, ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Sex’, their placement in the first half of the album causes ‘The 1975’ to a feel a bit top heavy. For people who aren’t familiar with these Mancunians, especially for those who are appreciative of good pop melodies and hooks, it may set you up for a bit of a disappointment, as these are arguably the strongest songs of this set and most accessible to the public. Newer track ‘M.O.N.E.Y.’ (not to be confused with fellow Mancunians M O N E Y) is a slow jam / r&b pastiche that is sat uncomfortably between ‘The City’ and ‘Chocolate’ and breaks up the pop momentum. Unfortunate.

Also, I have to wonder how many kids – and I mean KIDS – are going to be listening to this album, but to have the pretty innocent ‘Chocolate’ to be followed up by the extremely frank ‘Sex’ directly following it, is pretty jarring. (I’m starting to act all motherly and be quite crochety the more years I get in this music reviewing business, eh?) I guess all we can hope is that the wide-eyed innocents aren’t listening that closely to the lyrics. Or watching the new music video for the latter for that matter…

Then you go into the rest of the album, which is pretty much no man’s land unless you’ve actually been lucky enough to see the band in any of their sold out shows or festival appearances this year. Even so, a lot of these haven’t been played live yet or if they have, not very often. The pop formula of the aforementioned singles extends to some but not all of these songs. The start/stop syncopation and the brilliant guitars of ‘Talk!’ are nice enough but sound far too much like they were stolen from their labelmates Little Comets, making you wonder if Mickey Coles was hiding out in their studio and turning some knobs without them knowing while they were asleep.

Better is ‘Heart Out’, which feels very ’80s New Wave. Squint and you can see the long hair from here. Judging from fan reaction in the four times I’ve seen them this year, ‘Settle Down’ (live video from DC in March 2013 below) has come across as a very fun number and fan favourite live, so one hopes it will be the next song seeing a single release. From the spoken breakdown to its building back up, it’s a winner. ‘Girls’ is another possible single contender, with frontman Matthew Healy proffering up the lyrics with a winsome smile as the insistent pop rhythm continues throughout.

But from here on out, you have to wonder if it would have been better if some of these were better off released as B-sides and not included as album tracks, in favour of a shorter, more cohesive album. ‘Robbers’ has an admirable guitar hook that is brilliant live, but it’s too slow on album format and lacks interest to really grab the listener. The melody of ‘She Way Out’ is a bit tired, oddly staying in same general area of the harmonic scale, as if written so it could easily sung without taxing the voice. My theory, anyway. ‘Menswear’, taking advantage of synthesiser (if you could call it that), but the tune lacks punch, and the same fate befalls ‘Pressure’. And instead of ending the album on a high note, the vaguely John Legend-esque ‘Is There Someone Who Can Watch You’ ends the album on a sleepy yet soulful note. Not my thing, but I suppose for their legions of fangirls, this might hit the spot.

I do feel biased because I’ve had the good fortune to be down the front to hear some of these songs by the 1975 live in 2013, and I know those songs are better heard live than on record. On the other hand, based on the brilliance of the previously released singles, I was expecting to be hit in the face with banger after banger of new songs on the debut album, and I just didn’t get that. It’s a good debut album in the sense that they did try to be different from one song to another and didn’t just copy what they knew were successful formulas. But at the same time, I’d advise any band not to come out with a 16-track debut album: unless you’ve got an exceptional album from start to finish, you risk losing listeners who aren’t willing to stay with you for the duration.

7/10

The self-titled debut album from Manchester indie rock band the 1975 is out today on Dirty Hit Records. Stream the whole album from this post on TGTF last Friday.

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6 Responses

12:02 pm
2nd September 2013

New post: Album Review: The 1975 @the1975’s debut album ‘The 1975’ out today on @DirtyHitRecords: http://t.co/kkg56UAQQc

1:09 pm
2nd September 2013

RT @tgtf: New post: Album Review: The 1975 @the1975’s debut album ‘The 1975’ out today on @DirtyHitRecords: http://t.co/kkg56UAQQc

2:40 pm
2nd September 2013

RT @tgtf: New post: Album Review: The 1975 @the1975’s debut album ‘The 1975’ out today on @DirtyHitRecords: http://t.co/kkg56UAQQc

3:53 pm
4th September 2013

“Also, I have to wonder how many kids – and I mean KIDS – are going to be listening to this album, but to have the pretty innocent ‘Chocolate’ to be followed up by the extremely frank ‘Sex’ directly following it, is pretty jarring.”

You know Chocolate is about Cannabis right?

[…] Lies – ‘Big TV’ (Fiction/review here) – Third time’s a charm, right? Uh, no. Despite being an awesome live band, White Lies […]

[…] video for song ‘Settle Down’ from their 2013 self-titled debut album (I reviewed it here), frontman Matt Healy was able to take a recurring dream and make it a reality, keeping it entirely […]

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