The 1975 found themselves in a whirlwind of success in 2013 after their self-titled debut album spawned the hits “Sex,” “Chocolate” and “Girls.” A 39-track deluxe version of that album put The 1975 on the map, not only as catchy hitmakers, but as serious artists. Now, the group is back with their latest, the intimately named, “I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it.”
Intimacy is the running theme on this album, which discusses the topics of love, lust and loss, all of which open a window into frontman Matty Healy’s troubled mind. Hidden behind shimmering electro-pop overtones and ’80s-funk guitar beats are lyrics that reveal Healy’s struggles with identity and low self-esteem. Repeatedly, Healy laments over his love of women who don’t love him in return, pleads for help over his “junkie wannabe” ways and searches for his identity on a seemingly never-ending, winding road.
Undoubtedly the most personal track on the album is “The Ballad of Me and My Brain,” an orchestral-driven critique of fame, in which Healy describes his struggles with mental health in the public eye. He sings, “I jumped on a bus, declared my name, and asked if anybody’s seen my brain,” to which a character responds, “Your brain was last seen going for a run, and would you sign an autograph for my daughter Laura?”
This theme that fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be is persistent, seen again in the popular, “Love Me,” a ’70’s-influenced guitar-driven track. It’s a reminder that fame can distort one’s personal beliefs and degrade what we hold to be true. Healy voices, “You look famous, let’s be friends … We’ve just come to represent a decline in the standards are what we accept.” Though a brilliant reminder of the harsh realities of fame, with alien-esque sound effects overlaid on top of screaming vocals, it’s the worst track on the album.
The Manchester-based band got clever with us on “Please Be Naked,” a song you’d expect to be breathy and sex-driven, but is instead an ethereal, bare-bones instrumental track. Devoid of vocals, “naked” it is. “If I Believe You” is the most unique song, pulling religious influences together with soulful saxophone.
The best songs on the album, however, are the ones which show the variety of styles The 1975 is capable of mastering. “She’s American” is a quintessential display of indie pop, with swooping guitar strums, a typical 2-4 drum beat, and catchy vocals sung in a call-and-response fashion. “The Sound,” the band’s most recent single, displays a masterful blend of disco and bubblegum pop. “Nana,” a downtempo acoustic track, is void of frills, as Healy voices a letter to his deceased grandmother. Not only a heart-wrenching hymn to the departed, it’s a pleasant change in style as it begins to close the album.
Most puzzling about this album is its order — broken into seemingly indiscernible sections that attempt to group songs of similar content together, but ultimately fail to do so. The title track — I won’t say the name again — starts low with airy vocals overlaid on top of electronic pings, then quickly transitions into house beats you’d expect in ’90’s New York. It’s disjunct and it’s out of place, but most importantly, it’s intentional.
The album’s songs — a unique blend of Owl City, St. Lucia and Parade of Lights — are mismatched and disproportionately placed, but what they achieve is capturing Healy’s train of thought: a randomization of thoughts and feelings, embroiled in self-doubt, sorrow, sexuality and heartache. Don’t play this album on shuffle; it’s meant to be listened straight-through without pause. Just give it a chance, and you’ll find it’s a soulful album that will speak to you, even though it speaks for itself.