After a hugely successful self-titled debut album, and a massive 2-year tour which saw them perform in Coachella and Royal Albert Hall, the 1975 went quiet on the social media front, prompting speculation and even break-up rumours. All that changed when the band started posting a series of Tumblr-inspired neon pink photos, in stark contrast to the black and white theme for the first album. Soon after, they announced the new album (I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It) with a particularly Fiona Apple-esque title and a series of singles soon followed.
The only thing that could hold the band back would be complacency after the first album had garnered a following which could only be rivalled by One Direction’s fan base. Indeed, after an album full of Michael Jackson-styled hooks, evolving their sound would have been very crucial to move forward. Thankfully, they achieved that, even managing to throw in a few curveballs. The second song of the album, Love Me, iterates that. The songs on the album vary from the glorious, UGH! which sounds like a combination of M.O.N.E.Y meets Chocolate, from the first album, to the R&B meets soul meets gospel If I Believe You, to the Loveless-era My Bloody Valentine like Lostmyhead, to the Chromatics-like night raver Somebody Else. Then there is Loving Someone that borrows a bit of Alt-J’s slumber pop template and goes through Prince’s Sign O’ The Times. They even manage to fit in two instrumental tracks and two tender acoustic tracks at the end. It’s not to say that they’ve abandoned their first album sound, with She’s American sounding so MJ-like, one could almost expect Michael to join the song. It sounds so wonderfully 80’s, almost ethereal à-la Passion Pit during their Gossamer era.
As a songwriter, Matthew Healy has always been self-aware. However, this album sees him taking the self-awareness even further, almost up to his idol, Morrissey’s level. The album is full of moments like that with Healy often questioning his sanity amongst all the fame and fortune he had received in the past two years. However, he is not as refined a songwriter as Morrissey himself, with certain lyrics raising the cringe level of the listener. Plus being a modern day album for the pop kids, 73 minutes running time of the album is a bit long. Also, some songs fall flat on their faces, as they try to keep the dreamy-like theme of the album, from A Change of Heart, to the almost Smallpools-copied The Sound, to Paris. However, the last song She Lays Down, although being acoustic, finishes the album on a high, with its tender lyrics about Healy’s mother struggling to cope with a baby Healy, often succumbing to depression and drugs.
The 1975 are definitely not a one-trick pony. Although a few missteps take place, they’ve shown that they are willing to take risks. They have embraced their pop sensibilities and created a boundary-less pop album which takes the 80’s sound, while being aware enough about the present and re-present in a way that it fits in.