3 July 2016

The 1975 - I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It

(Update - this album has been nominated for the Mercury Music Prize 2016 since it was originally posted - Eddie)

Now I am a fan of long, portentous names (I think the name of the blog gives that away), but sometimes things can be took just a little too far (warning, this might contain sarcasm).  This review is looking at the second album from the Cheshire based act, The 1975. A very quick background on the band - The group consists of Matthew Healy (vocals & guitar), Adam Hann (guitar), Ross MacDonald (bass), and George Daniel (drums) and as teenagers began to play music together in 2002.  Their first album (which was called 'The 1975') was released in 2013, produced by the band and Mike Crossey (who has produced the likes of Razorlight, The Enemy, Artic Monkeys and others) and make the number one slot in the UK charts.  This album is credited as being produced by Mr Crossey, together with Messrs Healy and Daniel from the band.  When this album was released back in February 2016, I decided to put it to the side due to having a little bit of a crisis and the sheer volume of songs on the album - 17 songs before a deluxe version of the album has been released, over an hour and a bit with a lot of hype that went with it.  So I have left it for a day when I can totally absorb myself in this, give it time to see how it has turned out.  The cover is almost identical to the first, but all in white instead of black.  The title is not the easiest to roll of the tongue, but as I said - I am a fan of long titles, but will I be a fan of the album itself?

Starting off the album is “The 1975", it is the second song to be named after the band; at first I thought it was them making the ballsy move to name a song after themselves so soon in their career, turns out that they had already done this and it is probably going to become a running theme for the band and each album they release.  The song is a short one, starting off with distant static which fades into gentle noise and then a burst of silence which is followed with atmospheric synth and a set of lyrics which I can identify with from the very beginning.  It feels like there is summer in the world and your anticipation is high, a good introduction but is the name wasted?  Following on is "Love Me" which sounds like it has taken the guitar tone from David Bowie's "Fame" as its own and mixed it in with a huge 1980's pop/rock sensibilities and created a song that is both new and vintage in equal measure.  Make no mistake, this is not a new sound and it is one that has been done before; but musical trends do repeat themselves and it has been a recent vogue to do this, yet I find myself liking this song a lot because it is well crafted.  It is a song about desiring affection and the music is not a shy flower, you have an ambition in the band that is demanding attention from the beginning and does not need to hide it.  "UGH!"  is a song about Mr Healy's cocaine addiction and the downfalls that come along with it.  It is unusual to hear a song that is not glamorising cocaine and for that I can only applaud the band for creating this song.  Musically it is not as striking as other songs on the album, the music is slightly too cheerful considering the subject matter if I am being honest, but it is also not an offensive tune.  "A Change of Heart" is a ballad about the end of a relationship, documenting the end of infatuation and the time when you see someone for who they truly are and it is not to your liking.  It reminds me of Soft Cell and "Say Hello, Wave Goodbye", but without that emotional pitch & drama that Marc Almond could make in an empty room.  It is a gentle number about letting go when the other person finally dropping the disguise, it is gracious with a few barbed comments in the mix and worth persisting with as it takes a while to reveal its secrets.  "She's American" is a song about the difference between British and American people (in this song it is based on Mr Healy's experiences with an American girl).  It is another song that is designed for the indie disco, but it is one that still has its roots in the past and it is not one that is offensive.  It reminds me of a lot of acts and it has a culture clash at the heart of it all, it is a great number that does take its time, which is becoming something of a pattern with this album.

"If I Believe You" is a song about the apparent lack of a deity in the world, being perplexed by the lack of a God in their mind and the absence of any short of indication of existence.  It draws inspiration from Gospel music, mixing in a dose of Peter Gabriel to the sound and it comes across.... well, it is alright to a degree; the problem is that it is a little too long and labours the point of the song and could have been done in four minutes instead of six minutes and twenty seconds.  "Please Be Naked" is an instrumental which is meant to represent to way a body reacts during sex, with highs and lows, sounds like the heart beat pumping and gentle piano sounds to represent the lightest of touches.  It is another slow number, but not one without interest and it shows a different side to the band.  "LostMyHead" is alleged to be the first song that was wrote by the band, it is a twin to the 2012 released "Facedown", it is two sets of four lines and it is builds up to a prog-rock ending with a set of luscious strings over the band as they let the synth side drop to the side.  It feels like a coda, like a reverb to the past which is in the wrong place of the album and is adding to the confused feeling of this section of the album.  Instead it acts as an introduction to the much louder (yet strangely shorter) "The Ballad of Me & My Brain" which once again details to the mental capacity of Mr Healy and his adventures of a night time on his way to a shop.  Even though it is a much shorter song, it feels complete and well formed; unlike the last three songs which appear to need a little bit of editing to be honest.  This has the idea, takes it to the right point and then it is done - sometimes that is what you want from a band and this song is one of the best on the album for me.

"Somebody Else" is about the moment that you find out a former lover is moving on and has found someone to replace you, it is an experience that everyone will discover at some time or another and it is one that every human should understand in one way or another.  It feels (once again) like music I have heard from before, mixing the 80's sound with M83 and combination of classic rock and synth driven melancholy. It is another song that is very good, but could be just as good or even better with just a few beats removed.  It is a very ambitious song and it is a good number, but it is one that could have been an amazing song.  "Loving Someone" is a song about the how the modern media is reaching the youth of the planet, trying to sell the perfect dream and how life is supposed to be and trying to take people away from how life actual is for some people.  It is a deep number, with lots of slow pauses that mix with the political statements and I am a very impressed with this song.  It mixes both worlds that the band seem to inhabit with a dose of criticism for the world which is mixed and whilst the song never raises it pace (which it does not need at this instance), it is a perfect representation of their unique brand of music that is familiar and new at the same time - well played The 1975, well played indeed.  Following on the title track of the album "I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It", it is mostly an instrumental song with only a few lines about asking for someone not to leave, but if they do to turn off the light on their way out.  It is a long track with lots of passages that move around in the void and then it digs into a dance groove that is easy to follow and interesting.  But I wonder why it is on?  That might sound strange when it is the title track, but it is one that is actually a little surplus to requirements as well.  It could have been used as a bonus track of even in a deluxe version, but here just feels like extra padding to be honest.  Next is "The Sound" is The 1975 at their pop-best, it is all glamour, shine, love/sex lyrics and it is both shallow and deep in equal measures.  This is one of the best pop numbers I have heard this year, up there with the Miike Snow song "Genghis Khan" in terms of memorability and pop-sheen.  It is a brilliant song that gets stuck in your brain with ease and it has an infectious vibe about it, this is where the band are at their best and it picks up the momentum of the album with a tale about sex, emotional turmoil and insecurity.

"This Must Be My Dream" is a song about falling in lust, not falling in love, with the title of the song being a little misleading.  It is back to a gentler sound for The 1975 here, mixing that 80's noise that has been the calling card of the band.  It’s a dangerous number to be honest, as it could sound a little too critical in places and (to quote the great Adam Hills) like a bit of a dick.  It is played well, but it is the first song I have thought should have been kept off the album altogether and possibly re-wrote as it shows a side of the writer which is not pleasant to see - next song please.  "Paris" follows a similar pattern here, with a song about a coke-fuelled cheating session that has dire consequences on the subject matter (from what I have read, Mr Healy tends to write autobiographically) and the after effects are not sugar coated at all.  It is not a pretty set of lyrics, it is not an easy listen to be honest as well; but it does show that not everything is sunshine and there is fault on all sides of this situation.  Musically it is another slower song, but the bitterness to the lyrics give it an energy and a fair amount of warning to people as well.  The penultimate song of the album is called "Nana" which is about the loss of Mr Healy's Grandmother (Nana is a Northern term, one which I used for my Grandmother as well), it is a gentle song which is mostly played out on an acoustic guitar and mixes the sense of loss and the anger at the absence of a deity to save a loved one.  It is another bitter sweet number and one that will make a lot of people cry as they will have shared the same experience.  It is one of those numbers that transcends the album and it is a beautiful tribute to his Nana.  Ending the album is "She Lays Down" is another heart breaker, it is a song about post-natal depression which Mr Healy's mother experienced and the experiences that comes from that horrible time in her life.  It is a heart breaker once again and something that will be sadly familiar to a lot of people.  It is another acoustic driven song, and ends the song on a surprisingly sombre moment which shows a very trouble mind indeed.

I will do a bad things, good things round up for this album then:

Bad things - It is too long, it is a little over ambitious and I think that therapy would be a good idea for some of the band.  I do worry for some people, but I have seen a lot of my friend’s experiences in some of these lyrics and it did not always end up good for them and I hope that help can be sort (and if the writing of songs is a help, then more are to come).  If edited correctly, this would have been a great album, brilliant EP and some songs for the inevitable deluxe edition - less can be more at times.

Good things - The band are accomplished song writers and when they get it right (which is more often than not), they are world beaters with a mix of 80's and a dash of modern indie pop to make a unique sound that is so easy on the ears.  Also they can take something so personal and share it - that does take guts and is admirable.  As I said above, I do think that more might be needed, but it is also gives other people hope as it shows they are not alone.

Now for the rub - overall, this album is good and very brave in places (with a few dicks moves in the mix as well), but too over reaching in it desire to forefill all the ambitions of the band in one go.  I do think that their ambition is admirable and deserves to be applauded and recognised for what it is, but I reckon that quantity control is something that is needed as well which will come with experience and one day they will make a breath taking album that will make me eat my words here.  I will be interested to see where they go from here and I hope they have continued success, together will some emotional support that is clearly required in places.

7 out of ten - This is good and worth checking out

Top track - The Sound

You can purchase I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It from Amazon here

You can visit The 1975 website here

You can follow the activities of The 1975 on Facebook here

You can stream I Like It When You Sleep. For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It on Spotify here

You can stream I Like It When You Sleep. For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It on Deezer here

You can stream I Like It When You Sleep. For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It on Tidal here

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