Press play on The 1975’s self-titled debut album and you find a hazy, building introduction – all sleepy vocals and grey washes – which nicely wrong foots you before a four song sequence featuring three great, attention grabbing songs: The City, Chocolate and Sex. M.O.N.E.Y breaks them up. Let’s be honest here: plenty of albums would kill just to have those three tracks, which the band used on the EPs that established them.
Despite cross over air play and indie station ubiquity these songs are perfect indie moments, with dark texture and emotive lyrics grounding the pop melodies, all aided by one of the best drummer turned singers since Dave Grohl. But here’s the issue: most indie fans who like this music will have bought the EPs, and the question is do you need to buy this LP? Their EPs had tracks which were esoterically bold (given they have the talent to just put out bangers) but never essential.
Well, three of the tracks are short mood pieces, so that cuts things down a little. But let’s start with M.O.N.E.Y, a slower R and B infused track which, which by taking its time lets you fully appreciate the band’s ability to mesh disparate and potentially cold sounds together to produce something warm. It also takes the melancholy that’s present in all the hits and brings it to the foreground, allowing people who’d just hummed along on the radio to see what those songs were about, and providing the real clue as to where the LP’s going. It’s interesting timing, because as a break from the hits it works well, and as a reveal it works well, but in the sort of ‘stick the album on because we’re going out’ situation driven by the hype it’s a roadblock to the early hits. This isn’t a problem, it just cements the fact this band aren’t after party tunes but a more complex sound.
After Chocolate and Sex we’re onto Talk, back to melancholy, and ‘An Encounter’ is a pointless filler track that only gets in the way. ‘Heart Out’ is another muscular track detailing teenage anguish and life. This is a good moment to talk influences, because as the album progresses from start to finish you can really see why the band cites filmmaker John Hughes as a major influence. Even as a child, when some viewers were finding the Breakfast Club and others fun, you could find within them a downbeat, realistic set of emotions about the struggle of working through young adult life, and in The 1975 the band do this too. Songs like Sex and Settle Down can really affect you if you let them, or you can just dance along. There’s also a lot of eighties in the music, spread across all the tracks, adding to a sound which isn’t easily pigeonholed and certainly is more developed than the ‘few people with guitars’ that dominates indie.
If this sounds doom and gloom, the truth is that this album is a mixture of youthful optimism mixed with youthful pain and a bit of crime. In some ways The 1975 are moving down the same route as the Vaccines in Post Break Up Sex. And just when you think the album is over they pull a switch, with a closing track based around a piano that’s raw and stunning. A downside is that over sixteen tracks the coldness of their individual sounds can begin to come through and you can get disconnected with the world and the music.
So what are the conclusions here? If Chocolate is your going out tune you might be surprised, even down heartened, by The 1975 although the EPs were preparing you for that. But if you’re connected to the lyrics of their singles, if you want a soundtrack to working your way through young adulthood and all it can throw at you, this is a worthy listen. Yes it could be tighter, with 2 -3 tracks that could be cut, and the ending is a blow to the stomach with no preparation, but overall they have succeeded in showing depth, understanding and making an album worth exploring beyond the songs you’ve heard on the radio.
7.5 / 10