Review: The 1975 - New Album / by Sam Abelow

A malaise of Tumlbr-influenced neon magenta washes over their current aesthetics. [Image from The 1975's website/Tumblr]

I’m willing to admit, that despite a keen interest in the obscure and mellow music which doesn’t reach the top of the charts these days, I have my guilty pleasures. Whether it is James Bay, or Sam Smith, these more mainstream songs and productions have their own allure and are fitting for certain moments.

For me, The 1975 is one of these artists; a guilty pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless.

It is a band I became enamored with last year, with teeny, yet electric songs like "Sex" and "Robbers."

Catchy and accessible songs like "Girls," which are infused with a adolescent wit. "I know you're looking for salvation in the secular age, but I'm not your savior."

Their first album had a few undeniable, infectious tunes, which I listened to with earbuds, incognito and only spoke about with my music friends as an ironic example of catchy popular music.

But, overall their first record featured, like many popular albums, only three awesome tunes and twelve terrible ones. The deluxe version exaggerated their non-cohesive artistry, with 40+ tracks of "EP versions" and additional cuts.

SNL: The Prissy Hair Rocker Heartthrob

Although the lead singer, Matthew Healy, always comes offfar too superficial and derivative to be an artist of any substantial note, he talent for pop aesthetics is undeniable.

With the release of their throwback, late-Seventies music video and SNL performance of “Love Me,” my attention was seized.

The vocal performance on SNL was incredible and his energy was spontaneous and authentic (something that seems rare these days with pop acts who are stiff and choreographed).

His vocals were filled with grit and emotion. His lower class British accent and drunken inflections added a signature which was totally his own.

Matty stands out as a powerful and formidable rock vocalist, who, with hair and extemporaneous tattoos that makes the teens squirm, he is a "rocker" trope that pleases all of the niches of an archetype.

Matthew Healy flings his hair and bops his head, somewhat akin to Oralando Bloom in "Pirates..." -- [Image from The 1975's website/Tumblr]

Lead singer of The 1975 envokes rock n roll's archetypal "carelessness" on SNL. [Image is a still frame from SNL, copyright NBC]

I’m Loving the Church Choir Cheesiness

I admit to being duped into singing up for Apple Radio (three months free) in order to watch The 1975’s exclusive interview and performance. The interview is so dramatically un-insightful and boring -- I suppose unless I was a fourteen year old girl smitten with his leather “trousers” and whimsical smile.

For me, it was a banal mixture of a young man who wants to be a reckless rocker, but has just enough of a pinch of self-consciousness and morals to criticize and keep himself in check.

The performance for Apple Radio, which was beautifully staged, was strong at times. George Daniel is a skilled and tasteful drummer, with an extraordinary feel and aesthetic. His sense of rhythm is a crucial part of what makes this band’s songs so effective.

A nondescript and clearly shy bassist does the songs justice and guitar player is there… The “lead” guitar player (and I put lead into quotes because he is so in the background) keeps it straight and simple.

For those who like psychedelic rock guitar solo's check out me channeling Jimi on this "Great Mother's Milk," off my latest album

Cheesy songs like “She’s American” fared well, but the even more cheesy “Change of Heart” died on delivery, as Matty’s usual energetic vocals, had to be notched down and didn’t connect.

This song is equally as terrible on the album, which is surprising considering another slow song, “If I Believe You,” is top-notch. This track features a lovely and creative R&B groove and dynamic vocals. The production is inventive and modern, with an obvious influence of 90s R&B.

Healy’s lyrics are sexy, but not always sophisticated or incredibly original. On “If I Believe You,” the rocker reveals himself with a sense of honesty and fragility that works great with his whispery vocals. Of course, the choir is grandiose in a Kanye sort of way, but it's cheesy-glory strokes me the right way.

Under normal circumstances, if a singer said that the “…dabs were nice and opening up my mind; Showing me consciousness is primary in the universe,” I would cringe and turn off the song. But because it is followed by a crescendo of electronic-juiciness, when he says “And I had a revelation; I’ll be your child if you insist,” I just want to listen over and over.

I’ll have to forgive Healy for attempting to be profound when he is as dully witted and enjoy his songwriting and choice of sounds and style for what it is.

According to The 1975's Tumblr, we can see that these are the types of books Matty flips through in his leisure.  He has an apparent interest in the 60s and 70s era fascination with psychedelic mushrooms and spiritualism. [Image from The 1975's website/Tumblr]

Matty embodies the reckless rocker archetype, swooning to the ground in detached passion, as the crowd swoons along with him. [Image from The 1975's website/Tumblr]

Powerful Vocals, Plagiarizing Proclivities

Sometimes the band's choices of style are so derivative that it’s distracting. Much of The 1975’s post-millennial audience may not notice the absurd rip-off of M83 on the track “Lostmyhead.” But, for me this was distracting and distasteful.

They did the same on “Somebody Else,” lifting everything from melody to drums from a lesser known artist named Erik Hassle.

Headed back from the gym, which is the only place this music seems appropriate, I listened to the band redeem themselves on “The Ballad of Me and My Brain.” Matthew Healy’s abilities as a rock singer ooze cigarettes and whisky and scream through 1000 volts of glorious, electric emotion.

The drum are inventive and perfectly tuned and filtered to announce, “The 1975 have gone 1985.”

If they could refrain from stealing other people’s ideas so directly, their own wells of originality could open up more! I also would suggest to them, cutting out the fat on their albums.

Going from 40 tracks on the first album to 17 on this one is a trend in the right direction, but they would benefit from deleting the weaker songs and narrowing it to a solid 11 (that’s a tip they could steal from the minimalist Kanye West on “Yeezus”)

 A talent like Matthew Healy and his partners have a long career ahead of them. It’s yet to be seen whether that will remain with an audience of adoring fourteen year old girls, or prove themselves to a more mature audience.

The band decided to copy the homogenized, yet tastey, "Tumblr" aesthetic to promote their new album. [Image from The 1975's website/Tumblr]

These types of images are prominent on millennial Tumblr feeds. Why not use that? Putting their song title "This Must Be My Dream."

Ironically, it's somebody else's dream. As nice as this all looks; aren't artists supposed to reform and transform their influences, not just copy them? Just a thought. [Image from the 1975's website/Tumblr]

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