The 1975 – Album Review

The1975In their debut album the 1975 are still wandering the boundary between artists and unashamed indie pop band. It’s a blurred boundary often discussed in blog circles, and also easily derided. The 1975’s ability to craft and hone top class indie pop is unquestioned, their legitimacy as critically respected artists is not so concrete. Luckily though there’s ample evidence for both sides of the argument in these 16 tracks . Whether you  buy into instrumental tracks being a guarantee of artistic integrity or not, this debut is nevertheless a thoroughly enjoyable romp. It may not totally satisfy their critics but it does at least garner a wide appeal and a ticket to stardom.

The balance of styles this album is built on are to be found in starker contrast on their EPs, in which their well known singles, Sex, Chocolate and The City – all of which are present on this album – played centre stage amongst mixes of introspective arrangements of minimalist synth and guitar. Cynics might suggest this was an over the top declaration of their legitimacy as artists. Often these tracks just needed a little more listening to be appreciated.

It’s a success then that their debut, justifies the experimentalism found on the EPs. The album contains a strong collection of unheard and unreleased material that was too important to be utilised on the EPs. Material that seamlessly weaves together the modern minimalism found in their back catalogue with the touch of groove found in tracks like Chocolate. In M.O.N.E.Y we bear witness to the same kind of musicality that had Jai Paul  riding high, coupled with hip hop tinged vocals. Talk!  and Robbers embrace the same epic pop that made Sex the pop behemoth it is whilst tinged with the synthy nostalgia that holds the record together. In Hearts Out that nostalgia takes centre stage in one of the catchiest new tracks on the album, driven by an 80s beat so similar to College and Electronic Youth’s  A Real Hero that the video simply has to have them driving around in gold bomber jackets protecting Carey Mulligan from Ron Perlman. In monochrome though, obviously.

There is both strength and depth to this album, made clear by exception when tracks like Robbers rest heavier on previously trodden ground and don’t embrace the band’s flush combination of the past and their razor sharp modern edge. The track is rescued by Healy’s raw and impassioned vocals but its testament to the album’s intrigue that the guitar riffs akin to those of a post-haircuts Kings of Leon felt jarring. The way the album jumps and shifts about does legitimise the bands assertion that the record is both a reflection of their youth and their main method of expression. This of course means they take much of their inspiration from the main focal points of youthful hedonism sex, drugs and insecurity.  Often though these themes manifest themselves so clearly its hard to write off such interview chatter as being exactly that. In Menswear an inebriated protagonist sizes up a potential opponent, ‘he looks just like me except he’s 6″3 so I reckon you could knock him out’ before diving into a drunken wedding speech about the bride ‘dressed in nowt, telling everybody you were shagging about’. Girls sees Healy harks back to trying to bed ’17 and a half year old’ girls with pretty faces, but not so pretty noses. This is story telling, perhaps on an Alex Rider rather than Alex Turner level, but nevertheless the kind that will have their hordes of hormone frenzied young fans passing out and tearing up, whilst gaining  a grudging respect from the critics at the back clutching their plastic pints.

At 16 tracks the 1975’s eponymous debut is fleshed out with the kind of experimental flavourings found on their EPs, but its the addition of new stand out tracks that hold up without the big guitar lines that makes this album so enjoyable to listen to. New fans will still come flocking in for their addictive slices of guitar pop, but it’s the new, increasingly nostalgic and electronic additions, and the contrast between the two, that will hold their attention. That juxtaposition is the biggest testament to their skill and this records quality, and probably the one they were aiming for all along.