I discovered The 1975 while browsing r/listentothis on Reddit last year, probably in September or October. I was immediately enthralled with this band with an interesting name and a catchy, if unpolished, sound and I began looking for a larger catalog . Or, attempting to find one rather; at the time they had only two EP releases to their name. Very little information was to be found. And so I was left to wait patiently for a debut album to appear, only to be met by consecutive EP releases that were interesting, but at the same time so short and left me wanting something fuller. However, after all of my waiting, their self-titled debut album has finally arrived, filled with songs that sound like they could all be singles yet still find cohesion as a whole work. Suffice it to say that I am not disappointed. For how long that I’ve been waiting for their debut album, The 1975 have been waiting longer. The band, consisting of lead vocalist/guitarist Matt Healy, guitarist Adam Hann, drummer George Daniel, and bassist Ross MacDonald, formed in Manchester, England in 2002, when Healy and Hann began playing shows together as teenagers. The band has gone under various monikers since, including Talkhouse, The Slowdown, Bigsleep, and Drive Like I Do. “The 1975” is the name that finally stuck, taken from a book about the beat generation that Healy had acquired. “On the back page there were loads of suicidal messages and it was dated ‘1st June, The 1975’. The use of the word ‘The’ preceding the date really stuck with me,” Healy explained in an interview with Fame Magazine.
The album reflects the band members’ rich history growing up and playing together throughout their teenage and young adult years. Their style is largely guitar and synth-based with a marked emphasis on the kick and snare drums in the percussion to create a driving beat. However, that’s where the consistency ends. Songs range from the anthemic tracks “The City” and “Sex,” to funky, fun ones like “Chocolate” and “Girls,” to a softer, almost ballad-esque sound on “Heart Out” and “Robbers.” Ambient interludes, a large focus of their EP’s leading up to the album, can be found interspersed throughout the album, although not as prominently featured as they were on the EPs. Lyrically, songs deal with drugs, sex, violence; pretty standard topics that come up in the teenage and young adult years that the band has been together through. That’s not to say that they’re boring lyrics; quite the opposite, in fact, with both Healy’s choice in words and style in singing them creating an enjoyable, thoughtful ride through the emotions, rebelliousness, and self-discovery of growing up.
To me, the standout track on the album is “Sex,” which also happens to be the first song that I heard from the group. The work of producer Mike Crossey, whose previous partners in tunes have included Arctic Monkeys and Foals, is obvious hearing the album version as opposed to the EP version. Principally, the album version cleans up Healy’s vocals to make them decipherable instead of muddled, while also changing some balance and effects on the instrumental to tighten it up. The result is an evolution from a fun track with potential into a verified anthem. Thematically, the song deals with protagonist who is fooling around with a woman who is in a relationship. “Sex” makes me recall “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers, a similarly anthemic breakthrough song for a band that happens to also be about affairs (although from the point of view of the third party not included in The 1975’s song).
If I had a bone to pick with the album, it would be that it doesn’t seem to close strong. The last few tracks didn’t resonate with me near as much as the rest of it. I found the closing track, “Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You,” to be the worst track on the album. It is a song consisting purely of piano and vocals, and it is such a stark contrast in style to the rest of the album that it doesn’t feel like it works. Instead of tying the album together, it breaks the cohesion. However, the many great tracks on the album more than make up for it.
Overall, I was very happy with the album; a collection of standout songs that work together cohesively to tell a larger story. The story here is growing pains; common issues that most encounter as they move from naïve childhood to complex, layered adulthood. The songs could very easily be the soundtrack to a Brat Pack film, and in addition to fitting in as chapters to this larger story, are each enjoyable in their own right. And while the sound is very poppy, the band mantains its individuality in its style, largely through Healy’s unique voice. I give The 1975 by The 1975 a solid 4 out of 5 speakers.
The album is available for streaming on Soundcloud and Spotify (give it a listen on the Spotify player below; note that tracks 5 (“Sex”), 8 (“Heart Out”), and 11 (“Girls”) include explicit language). You can also download the album on iTunes (and if you’d like to listen to the EPs leading up to it, all four come with the deluxe edition).