This is strange. I went through my blog archive, and realized that in four years, I've never done a single music review. Frankly I don't know the first thing about music reviews, but not knowing something has never stopped me before. So why now, why this group? There are way more age-appropriate and current bands for me to review - you know, something to straighten my glasses to and accordingly nod my bun. ☺
But this is it, this is The 1975. Well all you mid-thirties and older, it isn't one of those bands that you'll have playing in the background while you discuss Hobbes' philosophy with your peers and a glass of wine in your hand. You'll want to listen to this album in solitude, preferably while wearing your headphones and colorful hand-knit socks.
The 1975 consists of mid-twenties Matt Healy, George Daniel, Adam Hann and Ross MacDonald, and on their self-titled debut album they sing about all the things that boys do, feel and care about. Although far from being a boy band, their RnB indulgence and double-tracking vocals, especially in Head.Cars.Bending sometimes steer their sound towards that direction. But the otherwise lack of designed synchronicity and artistic edge with all black and white imagery bails them right out of that pigeon-hole; more importantly the insane production value elevates their sound to a modern and crisp level. On iTunes, they even released new versions of some of their EP-tracks for the deluxe edition of their album. Neat!
The musical influences they list are pretty iconic: major 80s synthpop, but modernized, with explicit references to Michael Jackson, Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel and Talking Heads. The big ones. Listening to songs like You and Talk, I immediately felt taken back to another time, and the strong reminiscence to the 80s coming-of-age Brat Pack and their spiritual dad John Hughes, whose films the band said to admire (especially Breakfast Club). There are some other, more experimental songs on the album, like the ethereal An Encounter, a visit to ambient, or 12, an obvious and haunting nod to Sigur Rós. For what it's worth they could have been more brave in exploring those minimalist sound vaults.
The lyrics range from cryptic and grave to angry. It adds to the atmosphere, but while creative at times, the words are not as engaging as the sounds. They're at their best when music and lyrics cooperate like in The City's Yeah you wanna find love then you know where the city is, a prelude to life. It made me feel excited to revisit those places. And the ambiguous song Chocolate lets me remember what it was like to be dressed in black from head to toe, we've got guns hidden under our petticoats, and also bringing back the urges in the song Sex: if we can't do anything we might as well just fuck. Boredom and sex, hell yes!
I feel like I've pretty much outgrown most of the problems they're mulling over. The thing that reels me in anyway is singer Matt Healy's cadence. Many people don't like the way he sings. I'm finding that his vocals (and Skrillex hair) lend credence to the words he's saying. He doesn't play anything down, he doesn't cover anything up. It's a definite commitment to being vulnerable and uncool, and conveys a raw emotion, the kind of cheerfulness, desperation and delusional self-importance, that is the essence of being young. I think that the quality that possibly breaks open The 1975's music to an even larger audience is that their songs are joyful wallowing, never self-pitying.
The celebratory spirit of departure works well with the overall picturesque evocation of adolescence. At times the picture they paint even seems to be much more beautiful than reality. It's almost as if they're glancing back in nostalgia, telling us that even though being young at times can be troublesome, they know that one day they'll miss it. All of us old farts can relate to that kind of wisdom and it propitiates us instead of making us want to shrug it off as being juvenile. I'm thinking that the band's sound will evolve naturally, and mature with their next album. I'm not sure what their views on adulthood will be like - but since I like their take on adolescence, I'm looking forward to hearing it.