Genre: Indie Rock/Electropop
Producer: Mike Crossey, George Daniel, Matthew Healy
Released: 26 February 2016
I can’t say I really enjoyed the debut album of The 1975. Apart from the catchy “Heart Out”, the self-titled debut sounded like all the cliches of bland, bloated, eighties-influenced 2010s indietronica rolled conveniently into one big, infuriating ball. Their sound seemed a bit too clean and calculated, and combined with the lyrics about love, sex and social anxieties they just struck me as One Direction for people over 14. Not to mention that the band sounds way too eighties to be named The 1975.
However, they seem to have found the sweet spot where they’re not only mainstream enough for the audiences whose comfort zone starts and ends within Top 40, but also able to hold on to a certain hipster aesthetic to appeal to the indie kids that are ‘too cool’ to listen to anything remotely popular. After its release their recent sophomore album I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It, strong contender for the ‘Creepiest Album Name of the Year’ award, debuted at number one both in UK and the U.S. Billboard 200. They must be doing something right, right?
At first it certainly seems so: the first half of the album, while not exactly stellar, offers some great tracks: bombastic and groovy “Love Me” has more than a passing resemblance to David Bowie’s “Fame”; while “UGH!” and “She’s American” sound like a fruitful collaboration of Michael Jackson and Huey Lewis. On the more experimental side we have “Lostmyhead”, a clear nod towards My Bloody Valentine and other shoegazing groups of the late 80s, and “If I Believe You”, a curious mismatch of R&B ballad and electronic gospel, which despite feeling out of place (or perhaps precisely because of that) is one of the more heartfelt tracks on the album. Unfortunately, roughly halfway through the record takes a nose dive in terms of quality. Apart from unashamedly catchy “The Sound” the second half of the album is largely forgettable. It feels like the band at some point ran out of ideas and started rehashing the same drafts and ideas they already used on the first half. For the final few tracks they just give up and dish out some acoustic ballads obviously meant for bonus tracks for a Deluxe Edition but probably added to the main thing by a delusional executive. And while the band has gotten a lot less shallow with its eighties pastiche sound, their attempts to appear edgy and sensitive feel largely calculated.
The 1975 sophomore effort contains a couple of really solid pop hits, a few successful experiments, and a whole lot of superfluous fluff. With some heavy trimming this would’ve been a tight EP or a decent shorter, 30-minute commercial album. Now I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It just feels exactly as unnecessary and overly long as its title.