Manchester indie boys threaten their chart-friendly image with a dark, druggy, bombastic and labyrinthine second album
When a band conquers the charts with a fun but inoffensive debut album, you don’t expect them to return with a 17-track follow-up that tempers pop tunes with swampy post-rock instrumentals and references mental health, religion, addiction, loneliness and fame. But The 1975, whose self-titled debut hit number one in 2013, aren’t concerned with playing it safe.
Frontman Matt Healy told NME “The world needs this album” and for the most part, he’s not wrong. Any record that burrows as deep into your psyche as ‘I Like It…’ should be considered essential. It’s hugely clever and wryly funny, too.
Lead single ‘Love Me’, a “post-ironic” (Healy’s words) attack on selfie culture, nods to ‘Fame’-era Bowie. ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Brain’, all caustic guitars and snapping drum pads, confronts the effect of fame on the singer’s mental state with madcap black humour – the song sees him hunting for his brain in Sainsbury’s. The elastic, R&B-flecked ‘UGH!’ is dedicated to the effects of cocaine (and Healy’s addiction to it), while the crisp, electro ballad ‘Somebody Else’ finds him refusing to let go of a dying relationship for fear of loneliness.
Elsewhere, there’s genuine tenderness. ‘Nana’ is a gentle ode to Healy’s deceased grandma, while album closer ‘She Lays Down’ is just the singer and his guitar telling the story of his mother’s postnatal depression: “She’s appalled by not loving me at all”. These are serious moments from a band that don’t take themselves too seriously and proof that The 1975 can do moving just as well as catchy.
Interspersed between all that are three largely instrumental tracks of glacial post-rock. The longest, the title track, lasts for six-and-a-half minutes. Healy says the band wanted to make this album a true representation of themselves and their generation’s “non-linear consumption of music”. But these songs feel less vital than the rest – bold intervals that add to the mood through melody and rhythm alone. Still, they do little to unbalance Healy’s outlandish claim – and what’s more exciting than a band who’ve got the bark and the bite?
Director: Mike Crossey
Record label: Dirty Hit / Interscope / Polydor / Vagrant
Release date: 26 Feb, 2016