I had never seen a band gain such rapid buzz before releasing a debut album like The 1975. Surviving multiple name changes before finally deciding, the band released EP after EP over the course of the past year. Each EP gained them more of a following and more of a following – until recently when they seem to be everywhere. Watching this band grow has been incredibly exciting, because this band defines everything pop music should be.
Still, no one really knew what to expect with the band’s highly anticipated debut record, The 1975. Would it veer toward the darker more atmospheric tracks like “Antichrist” and “Me” or take the all out pop route like singles “Chocolate” and “Sex”? Leading to even more talk was the finding out that this record was completed before any of the four EPs, something I have never heard of a band doing. Thankfully, this record lives up to the band’s hype while containing an eclectic mix of atmospheric tones and synth-fueled pop jams. Teaming up with co-producer Mike Crossey has led the band to release probably the cleanest, authentically crisp sounding album of the year in regards to production and overall sound.
Atmospheric and building “The 1975” works as a great intro the album, leading wonderfully into the instantly recognizable drums and snazzy synth of “The City.” This tactic is something we’ve seen with the intro tracks on the band’s EPs, creating a definite unison among these releases. The band thrives on cohesiveness – their black and white marketing campaign, perfect mix of eerie with upbeat, and intricate interludes. At 16 tracks, most records will begin to drag on, but not this one. The variety of soundscapes, layering, and structure gives the record unison, whereas other albums attempting all of this would sound incongruent. The intro and interludes “An Encounter” and “12” provide seamless breaks from the music, while intricate tracks like “Robbers,” the more mid-tempo “M.O.N.E.Y,” and indie influenced “Menswear” effectively break up the upbeat pop numbers. The more I hear this record, the more I realize how much thought was put into it – from the layering to the sequencing and everything in between.
The best part of the inclusion of previously released EP tracks is that it leads to a great appreciation of them. When I first heard “Chocolate,” I wasn’t entirely sold – it was catchy but not that memorable. However, the placement here provides new appreciation of the track, as I now realize how well Matty Healy’s vocal repetition works with the stylish guitar work. The track leads wonderfully into “Sex” and “Talk,” pointing yet again to how cohesive this record feels. Regardless of which version of you prefer, you can’t deny how crisp “Sex” sounds. When he opening guitar riff fills your speakers before Healy takes over and the funky bass sneaks its way in, the production of the track has never sounded better. If you needed anymore proof that this song needs to be the biggest song in the world right now – this is it.
While “Talk!” features an ear-catching bass throb, “Why do you talk so loud” gets a bit overly repetitive after awhile. Nonetheless, the heavily accented diction works to Healy’s advantage, making you continue to sing along regardless. With two of the catchiest songs following, you quickly brush “Talk!” off. “Heart Out” experiments with layering in a way that most pop music fails to. At first, Ross MacDonald’s bass seems to distract your ears, but then curveballs fly from all over. A saxophone sneaks in and gives the track an old fashioned R&B flare, while the guitar slowly dances in the background. The synth-fueled guitar work adds another piece to the puzzle, and you really realize how talented this crew is. “She Way Out” works similarly, with Healy’s articulation making the line, “She said ‘It’s not about your body it’s just social implications are / Brought upon by this party that we’re sitting in’” sound like it’s being abruptly spit out, making the words take on a life of their own. Few frontman have such a unique vocal prowess that can be used as its own instrument, and Healy does so in expert fashion.
The album’s highlight comes with “Robbers,” which shouldn’t come as a surprise since the demo has been floating around for a while. Layered vocal effects, an eerie guitar line and drum combo, and Healy’s incredible vocal performance are pushed to their limits but never to the extreme, as the track retains its eerie vibe and darkness throughout. Once the music cuts out and Healy veers to a near whisper, he wails “Now everybody’s dead” and soon follows with the menacing repetition of “You look so cool.” The track is as haunting as it gets, namely due to the fact that the eccentric layering never clouds the melancholy of the vocals and lyrics. There’s a lot going on, yes, but none of it feels overdone or pushed to the limits – rather than distracting the listener, the layers add to the poignant mood of the song.
Simply put, this record already feels timeless. I rarely feel that way about such a new release, but with this debut album, The 1975 have left quite a footprint. This album is what pop music should be. This album is what indie-pop should be. It’s what the radio should play. The album really has no genre, as the band would rather break genre barriers and erase the labels. There is no clear cut dividing line for this record, yet it remains amazingly cohesive and complete, with each song adding to the puzzle. The 1975 is the breath of fresh air that today’s music needs. There is no genre name necessary – no label to categorize the band in. This is a special record, and that is the only word needed to describe it.