The correlation of a listening experience with a real life situation or emotion is one of music’s most poignant and powerful capabilities. It’s the effect that helps a song transcend a transient accompaniment role, that integrates your appreciation of an artistic product with your personal interactions and progression through life, irrevocably tying music to memory. It is due to The 1975’s ability to produce this effect, as evidenced by their four EPs of the past two years (Facedown, Sex, Music for Cars, and IV), that, in a matter of days, I went from never having heard of the band to anticipating anxiously their first and self-titled full-length album. The EPs showcased a deft narrative hand that melded instrumentation, lyrics, chord progressions, and melodies into one cohesive and focused whole, and I hoped that the album would display those same impressive traits.
Given my staggering expectations, it would have been easy to predict at least slight disappointment upon hearing the album. However, the assuredness the band exudes in their music, public appearances, and live performances convinced me that there was little reason to worry, and I’m happy to say that repeated listens to the new album have rewarded that confidence. The 1975 is a carefully constructed, tonally consistent, and unabashedly positive work, filled with overwhelming and bright pop songs that are both instantly memorable and offer new revelations with each listen. The storytelling techniques of the EPs are translated to the larger canvas with seeming ease, all the production intricacies, lyrical themes, and engaging melodies intact. The album moves from scene to scene, capturing youth’s intimate and emotionally charged sensations: attending a friend’s wedding (“Menswear”), coping with your parents’ divorce (“Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You?”), rebelling against power-drunk local authorities (“Chocolate”), or being drawn into heartbreaking infidelity (“Sex”).
With thematic cohesion, though, comes a level of redundancy that might be considered the record’s only true weakness. Several of the songs share a groove and vibe that will leave casual listeners unable to distinguish tracks and, perhaps, encourage dedicated fans to single out preferences among those similar tracks. For me, this means the surprisingly bland “She Way Out” compares unfavorably to its funky, 80s-inspired companions (“Chocolate”, “Settle Down”, “Girls”, and “Pressure”). No doubt some listeners will lament the lack of more aggressive tracks along the lines of the misleading first US single “Sex”, while others will miss the darker styles and lyrical content of the EPs—nothing comes even close to the tragic lows of previous songs “Me” or “Undo”. That’s not to say there’s no melancholy to be found on The 1975; rather, the stories are all dressed up in a consistently upbeat musical fashion.
The glorious silver lining to this relatively minor complaint is that the EPs were, in fact, written after the album. This means that The 1975 have not only released a stellar album with The 1975, they’ve also effectively released a follow up (in four parts) that exhibits a band making remarkable strides in diversifying their sound while retaining the core components that will draw new fans to their current release. It’s a win-win for anyone who basks in the warmth of tracks like “Heart Out” or “Settle Down”, but craves the varied tones of “M.O.N.E.Y.”, “Talk!”, and “Menswear”, or the ambient ache so briefly teased in the interludes (“An Encounter”, “12”) on The 1975. Lead singer and guitarist Matt Healey likens The 1975’s creative process to collecting water from a river, constantly flowing with ideas. That’s good news for those who find something to love in either the EPs or the new album: even with their prolific output thus far, we’ve only had a taste of what The 1975 is capable of producing. In the meantime, The 1975 offers a potent snapshot of the band at this particular stage in their evolution, one that has already fused with my memories of the here and now and will continue to resonate for years to come.