'The 1975' Review: The Essential Pop Album Of 2013
Earlier in the year, The 1975 released “Chocolate,” the catchiest song of the year and a surprise summer hit that actually had quite a bit of depth to it. The track was genuinely refreshing, especially in the fact of the bland electro-pop that has been in complete domination of radio waves for far too long now. Now, a few months later, the group has released its first record, and the good news is that “Chocolate” was no fluke. The even better news: this is easily the best pop record of the 2010’s.
What separates The 1975 from their peers is their sense of ambition. It’s apparent that the group aimed to create the perfect soundtrack to youth and have achieved this goal, crafting an album that would serve as the perfect soundtrack to any 80’s teen movie (the guys are self proclaimed John Hughes fans). Through sixteen songs, Matt Healy sings about alienation, awkward sexual encounters, and a fear of growing up, and ultimately crafts a set of lyrics that perfectly encapsulates youth.
In the song “Sex” the narrator is in love with a woman who has no interest in him and already has a boyfriend, and only wants to hook up with him. He knows that it will ruin their friendship if he hooks up with her, but does it anyway because he’s so controlled by his desire. “Chocolate” is about drug usage, and the narrator of the song is addicted to marijuana (which he refers to as chocolate) and continues to do more of it because of the woman that he is with, but is tormented by the police and feels that he needs to stop, but can’t. In “Girls,” Healy sings about hook ups and how glorious they seem in youth but how they ultimately become stale and how a youthful act of rebellion like hooking up can ultimately lead to consequences in adult hood. In fact, the whole album shows how the teenage years of a man are dominated by sexual desire, and ultimately it illustrates how this desire must be conquered in order to mature.
The lyrics are only piece of what makes this album so great, though, and in actuality the instrumentation and production are the best part of the album. Every track is layered with lush vocal harmonies, pulsing drums, and fantastic guitar riffs from Adam Hann, the best of which might make Nile Rodgers jealous. There is not a dull moment musically to be found on the record, and even the interlude tracks “12” and “An Encounter” are gorgeous and don’t seem like filler in any way. The band produced the record themselves with some help from Mike Crossey, whose been producing some of the best records coming out of the U.K. lately, and the record sounds polished and clean without being over done. In fact, the quality of production can be noted by comparing earlier versions of “The City” and “Sex” to the versions that are present here, which are significantly better. “The City” now features smoothed out drums and a razor synth bass line that help to better underline Healy’s vocals, and “Sex” is now an arena rock anthem that sounds like what Kings of Leon dream of sounding like.
Even better, the sequencing of the album allows for the whole thing to play out like its own story. The most youthful songs are pushed forward, and the narrator’s ultimate moment of growing up is pushed to towards the end of the record on the stellar track “Menswear” which is about a drunk teenager at a wedding trying to cope with the idea of accepting adult hood and love into his life while still wanting to misbehave and have fun. The album isn’t short at sixteen songs, either, but ultimately it feels like the perfect length, and it never gets stale.
The album comes to the perfect close with “Is There Somebody Who Can Watch Over You” a piano ballad that features Healy singing about what will happen to his younger brother now that his parents have divorced. This song works as the perfect closer to the record because Healy himself had a rough life growing up but ultimately did not have to grow up in a broken home, and now feels that his little brother will have it even worst. It’s heartbreaking, and ultimately an album that was so youthful ends on a very adult moment. It’s important that it ends this way though, as it shows the completion of a journey through youth into adulthood that was the center of this record, and this song is simply gorgeous and yet heartbreaking.
The 1975 might very well be the most important band in pop music, and this album is by far the best pop record of 2013 so far and also the best pop record of the 2010’s yet. The 1975 have been offered supporting spots by artists like Rihanna and they turned them down and this is for very good reason: they know they’re destined for greater things and want to have the stage to themselves to share their sound with the rest of the world. Hopefully Rihanna won’t turn them down when they offer her the supporting spot.
Score: 10 out of 10