POZ Review: The 1975 - The 1975
by Donald Wagenblast, edited by Erik van Rheenen
Ah, the teenage years. Those magic, awkward times where you figure out the right and wrong way to act, become the person you want to be, make mistakes, and (maybe) grow up a little. It’s a time that certainly has its fair share of songs written about it, by countless artists who have tried to add their own spin.
Some of these albums work out, and some of them don’t. So, while it’s clear that the self-titled debut from The 1975, an album about growing up, isn’t treading any new ground, they have still created an album that will surely become the soundtrack to many individuals’ teenage years.
Beginning with one of three “transitional tracks,” which are mostly instrumental and help to move The 1975 along throughout its 50-minute run time. “The 1975” serves as somber, slow-building opener, as ambient synths are eventually accompanied by vocalist/guitarist Matty Healy’s muffled vocals. The other two transition tracks, “An Encounter” and “12,” are completely instrumental, and their tone follows suit with its predecessor, as they move delicately along.
After the self-titled opening track is one of the three songs The 1975 built four EPs around in order to promote the release of this very album (Facedown, Music for Cars, Sex, and IV): “The City.” Along with “Chocolate” and “Sex,” there’s a good chance you’ve heard a different version of this song already. Listeners who are cautious that these tracks have been altered too far from their original versions have nothing to fear, as these tracks aren’t remixes or reimaginings, but rather fine-tunings.
“Chocolate” is the song of the bunch that had the least alteration done to it, as the untrained ear won’t be able to tell the difference between this new version and the one heard on IV. “The City’s” tweaking keeps the focus on the splendid drumming of George Daniel, while “Sex,” the most audibly different of group, still feels like the angst-ridden jilted lover tale it’s always been.
While the singles most had already heard before the release of The 1975 will likely be where the album gets its initial notoriety, it is the tracks beyond that trio set this album apart. These tracks draw influence from indie pop like Passion Pit (“M.O.N.E.Y.”), pop-infused indie rock like Phoenix (“Talk,” “Girls” and “She Way Out”), and heart wrenching emotional outpours from Healy (“Robbers” and “Is There Someone Who Can Watch You”).
Despite being a well-sequenced album, there is room for each track to stand out on its own in a different way. The saxophone interlude in “Heart Out” will immediately remind listeners of M83’s “Midnight City,” transforming the song from a breezy, catchy track into a clear standout from the album. Healy’s vocals are usually smooth and nostalgic, but during the outro of “Robbers,” he lets loose an emotional yell, which is sure to tug at the heartstrings and soak the tear glands of quite a few listeners.
Appearing as another transition track at first, “Menswear” begins as an instrumental track, before Healy’s vocals reenter the scene, making it one of the more interesting choices the band makes on the album. Bassist Ross MacDonald provides a solid backbone throughout the release, as his bass tones are subtle enough to not hinder anything the band are trying to do with the guitars and synths, but strong enough to get noticed. Each individual member of The 1975 contributes a great performance while still contributing and blending masterfully with one another, giving each track a complete feel.
All that said, these performances are all set aside for the album’s closing track “Is There Someone Who Can Watch You,” which sees a sole piano accompanying Healy’s vocals, as he sings about the perils of leaving a loved one who you are supposed to be looking after behind. As Healy sings, the emotion in his voice is palpable, and adds a very sobering ending to an album with so many highs. Despite trudging the difficult path of ending the album with a whimper, The 1975 toe the line wonderfully here.
There are so many different ways to describe the ways The 1975 as a complete success, but it will suffice to say that this album has not only lived up to the hype that “Sex,” “The City,” and “Chocolate” built, but tracks like “Settle Down,” “Robbers,” and “Girls” combine with those singles to surpass expectations for this band’s debut album in almost every way. The band’s lyrical themes won’t blaze any new trails, but the band’s wide array of styles, and Healy’s unique lyrics and songwriting are more than enough to keep things feeling fresh and original.
The 1975 have been on a ten-year journey to get themselves to this point, and that patience and hard work has paid off mightily, with a debut album that will not only cash in on the near-certain success of its trio of singles, but features deep cuts that will be played in the background of teenagers’ lives for years to come.
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