The 1975 are a band of contradictions. Their unmistakeable ‘80s aesthetic jars with their boyband fan base. Their claim to serious lyrical content jars with their happy-go-lucky song names. The sweeping, ambient interludes that break up their albums jar with the fact that those songs feature on Made in Chelsea. Is this a band with an ongoing identity crisis? Well, no, actually.
Since their disappearance from social media after the release of their first album in 2013, The 1975 have been in the wilderness. Having spent years grafting on the live circuit before even their first album was recorded, their sound arrived fully formed: punchy, driving and saturated with a sharp wit. In the last three years another transformation has taken place. ‘I Like It When You Sleep…’ is a different beast. While their debut effort was chock-full of short, sharp and intelligent pop songs, ‘I Like It When You Sleep…’ demonstrates a wider song-writing range. The 1975 have embraced the experimental - ambient soundscapes sit between shorter, tighter tracks; tribal drums mesh with full choirs. There are hints of Fout Tet, Duran Duran and Brian Eno. This is a band looking to spread their wings, and for the most part the assortment of ideas meshes agreeably.
Frontman Matt Healey claims that the young millennial audience listens across genres, so for music to be gripping it should provide that variety. We live in a time where people’s tastes are more varied, but we also live in a time where attention spans are shorter and our ability to sift through reams of music is better. ‘I Like It When You Sleep…’ might deliver this variety that Healey so clearly craves, but at what cost? Running over 17 tracks this is an album bloated from an excess of ideas. The millennial is unlikely to make it all the way through and this is a shame. Sparkling gems like ‘A Change of Heart’ and ‘If I Believe You’ bookend more pop-bland tracks like ‘UGH!’ and ‘Nana’ which cover familiar ground.
The album ultimately feels like the half-breed cousin of Duran Duran’s druggiest years, re-imagined in light of a millennial pop formula. It sounds like a band shooting for the moon too soon. The act have moved away from their punchy, intellectual take on boyband pop that produced such a precocious and fully formed debut. In return, we get a less focused effort, with peaks and troughs in its quality. Yet the best tracks off the album are better than any of the band’s previous work. It’s just a shame that the weaker songs fall below the standard The 1975 set for themselves.
Words: Alex Green
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