Fitting with the long list of English groups before them that The 1975 seem to be forging their way into, the Manchester quartet have created a second album that sounds and looks like a more mature version of their first.
This does not mean that the (the arrogant and annoyling titled) ‘I like it when you sleep for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it’ is a direct, boring and lacklustre copy of their debut (and better titled) ‘The 1975’. Rather, it means that what went right on their first try, such as the witty lyrics and experimental mix of electronic beats and rock synth guitar pop, is capitalised on and expanded, and what went wrong is done away with. It means that they’ve taken whatever they learnt after being thrown into fame from their debut after years in a career without any, after touring, dealing with fangirls, pop stars that “want to shag” lead singer Matty Healy, and apparent struggles with cocaine, and turned it into a sprawling, ambitious, and heavenly workable second album that both responds to the questions laid out on their first, and leaves room for The 1975 to grow into the iconoclasts that they seem to be itching to be.
Lyrically, ‘Ugh!’ is the new 1975’s response to the song that first catapulted them into success, ‘Chocolate’, making the first catchy anthem about driving around with soft drugs sound comparably tame to the singer’s electro pop tryst with cocaine. ‘A Change of Heart’ is another answer to their debut – Healy sings ‘never found love in the city’ after telling us on their debut that ‘If you wanna find love then you know where the city is’, perhaps literally making note of this response by telling us that he’s ‘just had a change of heart’. ‘She’s American’ and ‘Paris’ sounds like more tales of the women sung about in ‘She Way Out’ and ‘Settle Down’ from their debut, and ‘The Sound’ is the second album’s festival anthem answer to ‘Girls’ on the first. The link is literally evident by starting the album with a rework of the same track that did the first, ‘The 1975’, showing us from the get go that this album is similar to the first, but the jump into the powerful opener on ‘Love Me’ shows that it’s gone above and beyond what the debut made us expect.
Swapping black and white aesthetics and guitar driven pop for a rose tinted theme and Bowie-inspired riffs hasn’t answered all of Healy’s troubled questions, however. Just as he struggles with belief in God in ‘Antichrist’ on the ‘The 1975’, he continues to plead ‘I’m asking you Jesus, show yourself’ on ‘If I believe you’, contrasting these more serious tones with ‘you shouldn’t have made me atheist’, continuing the link of witty lyricism that is consistent throughout the album, making the scrawling mix of pop, jazz and 80s rock come to life in a way that is new to The 1975’s talents. Some of the record’s best tracks, ‘The Ballad of Me and My Brain’ and ‘Somebody Else’ show us deeper into Healy’s struggling psyche, while always keeping that hint of lightness to the lyrics, ‘I think I’ve gone mad, isn’t that so sad?’. Similarly, ‘Ugh!’’s upbeat tempo and sporadic mix of sound may make it seem like one of the more light-hearted songs on the album, but a closer look reveals that ‘I’m not giving it up again’ may not be as simple as he’s trying to convince us it is.
So much of the album seems unworkable – its 17 track length, variation of genre and style, and almost-too-much instrumentals, but what The 1975 have learnt from their first release has obviously paid off. It’s hard to think of what track they could have cut or where they could have simplified musically – the album’s beauty is contained within its euphoric music, coupled with layered vocals found on ‘Somebody Else’, ‘If I believe you’, and physically manifested on the album’s simplistic artwork. What is most appealing, however, is The 1975’s ability to capture the cultural climate in a way that is lyrically subtle, but visually obvious. In ‘A Change of Heart’ Healy amusingly sings ‘you took a picture of your salad and put it on the internet’, harking back to their video for single ‘Love Me’ where he mocks card board cut out celebrities. ‘Love Me’ is perhaps the album’s marking song – the most literal nod towards the Bowie influence, the characteristic mix of genres, the dazzling bass line (something they’ve thankfully carried over from songs such as ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Girls’ on their debut), and lyrics directly criticising the generation that they’re making music for. The more adept listener will question their own relationship with culture and the celebrities they worship in this internet age.
Healy struggles to find a sense of identity in a world where religion is absent, his friends are overtaken by fame, and his lovers are ‘looking through your phone and then leaving with somebody else’. It’s wholly empty, beautifully depressing and disgustingly perfect – fitting for a band that seem grappled between dichotomies of criticising the modern age and using it for their success. Each listen leaves me so fucking confused, but in the way that only great bands can.
Written by Amy Eskenazi