It’s been about three years since the release of The 1975’s debut self titled album. The 16-track mega-mix filled with stadium anthems and minute long interludes quickly took the U.K by storm, with America quick to follow. In a matter of months, the band went from playing dive bars to major arenas and built a teenage-girl fan base eager to spend hundreds on a nosebleed seat in less than a year. The band had been touring with the same songs from the same debut album, and essentially the same set list, for years, which left audiences questioning the possibility of new music. Finally, the patience was rewarded with a brand new album. ‘I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It’ dropped in February, confusing many with both it’s lengthy title and drastic change in sound.
I blame The 1975 for my one semester stint in college of wearing all black exclusively and sporting my bad attitude like an expensive accessory, so imagine my surprise when their first album in 3 years brought around bubble gum pink packaging filled with songs about cocaine and sex-drenched in the synths that are usually reserved for pop songs about mindless romance. The 1975 listeners are used to a transitional sound between pop and alternative rock, albeit a much darker and moody form of the combination. Songs like ‘Robbers’ and ‘The City’ from their self-titled were draped in drama and black silk, romanticizing the idea of sadness by delivering singles in the form of an attractive shirtless lead singer wearing combat boots. A few years later, the boys are still singing about drugs and misfortune, but they seem a little happier about it. Certainly, listeners who have grown out of the moody teenager stage of their life can rejoice that the band members have grown with them in terms of their attitude about the unfortunate.
The songs on ‘I Like It When You Sleep…’ are funny. Really, when you listen to the words, the sarcasm that is hidden behind layers of catchy riffs is actually very clever. In ‘If I Believe You,’ lead singer Matty Healy speaks cynically to a god he doesn’t believe in, ‘American’ pokes fun at the stereotypes behind the typical American girl, and ‘UGH!’ toys with the petty annoyances (I don’t have the capacity for fucking, you’re meant to be helping me…’) of addiction. Yes, small remains of their ‘old’ sound is still present; there are lengthy interludes in between a few tracks and the band still sings a bit about sadness and struggles with fame, but boy, depression and drug addiction never sounded like so much fun.
The band released a steady number of singles leading up to the actual album drop, which was a great idea from the record label’s marketing department. Shoving a brand new sound into consumer’s ears would probably have not been met with much praise. The releases prompted knowledgeable music fans, critics, and parents born after the year 1964 to all think the same thing: this sounds like Duran Duran/The Cure/ Aha/Any other relevant pop band from the 80’s. It’s true, The 1975 sounds nothing like the disco, rock, and hippie comedown that was being made in the year that they decided to name their band after. Instead, we find more electronic and glamorous electric guitar heavy tracks that sound a lot like a re-mastered version of something from the heart of Robert Smith. It’s a commendable project. Making music using influences from the most embarrassing decade of the last century sound cool and relevant is truly something special.
We will always have the dark and gloomy bad boy sounds from The 1975’s self titled, but there’s something refreshing about seeing a band successfully conquer a brand new sound. Seeing artists grow into the music that makes them stand out amongst the crowd is often met with disapproval from the fans that love what they’re used to. There was plenty of backlash from a younger audience who have yet to understand that idolizing the alcoholic lead singer of a boy band is not something that can be written proudly on a college application. With that being said, The 1975 gained the respect from a slightly older audience and music critiques who appreciate a good old fashioned band transformation.
‘I Like It When You Sleep…’ has not yet lived up to the band’s freshman album, although it has the potential to. Their debut took a few months before it's popularity, and was only met with extreme success nearly a year after it’s release, and I’m hoping the same for this one. Clever songs laced with cynicism and an electric piano is something special to hold on to. But isn’t that the way it always goes? Albums met with critical acclaim and a cult following almost never make it to the top of the charts during the first few months post release. Until then, I will pretend to relate to songs about promiscuity and hard drugs until everyone else catches up.
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