Monday, September 02, 2013

Album Review: The 1975 - The 1975 (4.5/5)

Manchester based band, The 1975, seemingly emerged summer of last year—as if out of nowhere—and has since released a string of EPs that have lead up to the release of their eponymous debut album. This, ultimately, is the result of ten years of playing under different guises, honing their craft in the process. The self-titled set has, so far, landed the band three top forty singles—the biggest being the shimmering melodic pop of “Chocolate” driven by twangy guitar and drum work, layered over an atmospheric spacey backdrop. It’s the single that made me a fan and ultimately emphasises what the album is all about: It’s an alternative rock album with a pop consciousness.

The albums opens with “The 1975”—it’s not often you see a song actually titled after the band—it’s a short intro, glistening with moody soundscapes, deep distorted tones and lead singer, Matthew Healey’s distinctively layered vocal work. It sets the stage for “The City,” beginning with booming drum work, which is then lined with deep reverberating guitars and soaring synths that builds nicely behind the repetition of “If you wanna find love, then you know where the city is” during the chorus. Following is “M.O.N.E.Y.” which strips the production down to lines of stuttering pulsating tones and a rhythmic bassline that wrap around an interesting popping effect.

“Sex” begins with an exhilarating streak of electronic guitar before the vigorous drums quickly kick in—it’s that remarkable adrenaline-charged sound that isn’t uncommonly found in the most alternative of bands (see: Morning Parade). It’s certainly a stadium-filler; particularly as it gradually builds to its climatic mid-section that showcases elating instrumentation as the drums become more insistent and guitars more intense and elevated. “Why you talk so… why you talk so loud” roar’s Healey on “Talk!” a down-beat number that elucidates a softness to its production—driven by an assertion of clattering drum lines, subtle bursts of guitar chords and a quiet spiraling bleepy backdrop—at 2 minutes, it’s the albums shortest number (bar the interludes).

“Heart Out,” a summery mid-tempo with a prominent drum and plucky guitar-synth puts it in the running for the most radio-friendly number on the album. It gets a little more interesting as a horn mimics the melody towards the end. “Settle Down” follows—just as lighthearted—with twinkling synths and deliciously infectious guitar backing, which nicely accommodate the oncoming whistling effect toward the mid-section.

Laidback “Robbers” drops the energy a level—I’m unsure whether the term ‘ballad’ is appropriate, but in any case, this song is stunning! Beginning with howling guitar chords and a protruding drum backing layered over an atmospheric backdrop. The composition builds nicely up to its beautiful bridge, where the guitars melodiously progress beneath Healey’s emotive vocal. The jaunty guitar work of “Girls” takes us back to the ‘80s—it’s definitely fun—and if “Heart Out” and “Settle Down” weren’t the most radio-friendly cuts on the album, then this definitely is.

Towards the end of the album, we find “She Way Out,” which sounds a little unremarkable at first, until the infectious chorus hits. “Menswear” is certainly interesting, seemingly highlighting the album at its most experimental. For the first minute there’s an amalgamation of quiet percussion, subtle beats and soft tones before the composition picks up, emphasizing the instrumentation. “Pressure” follows with its twangy guitar work and moody soundscape—reminiscent of “Chocolate” without the catchy hook—the horns during its mid-section was a nice touch. Closing the album is the albums only ballad, “Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You.” It’s the first time we hear a piano, which sound that much more poignant against Healey’s emotive vocal. It’s beautiful and surprisingly melodious, evoking a sense of vulnerability that has so far been understandably absent on the album.

The 1975 is certainly an impressive album and was definitely worth the wait. At sixteen tracks, perhaps the album could use a little trimming, but it is elongated with the inclusion of instrumental interludes—“An Encounter” and “12”—but that aside, there is a lot to love here; a strong eclectic set rooted in alternative rock but unafraid to explore the poppier and more experimental sides of things. It’ll be interesting to see how they follow this up.

Best: Chocolate, Sex, Robbers, Heart Out, Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You, Girls, The City

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