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The 1975

At whatever angle one first discovers Manchester’s mystifyingly-monikered The 1975 (electropop, emo, lyrically dark alt-funk or ambient R&B), it would probably be another musical identikit that would follow one’s further ventures into their infectious bubble; they indeed took their inspirational name from doodles (“1 June, the 1975”) inscribed in a book by beat poet Jack Kerouac. Arguably the most promising act to materialize from the post-tenties, the glam-boys have now chalked up several download hits and back-to-back No.1 albums, their sophomore achieving mission impossible when scaling the perilous heights at the top of the Billboard charts.
One could trace their flirtatious footsteps back to 2002 when schoolboys from Wilmslow High School, Cheshire (11 miles south of Manchester) formed their band. Fronted by former sticksman-turned-singer/guitarist, Matthew Healy (son of seasoned actors Tim Healy and Denise Welch), and other musicians Adam Hann (lead guitar), Ross MacDonald (bass) and George Daniel (drums), the quartet performed as a covers act under various guises until, in 2012, they hit upon the brainwave that was The 1975.
Unconventional in their approach to releasing records, the quirky quartet sprinkled the odd limited-edition 12-inch EP between chart-aimed download singles: their August 2012 debut `Facedown’ would house the Top 30 track, `The City’, while hits `Sex’ and `Chocolate’ were spread among subsequent EPs, `Sex’, `Music For Cars’ and ‘IV’; even America got in on the act when they unveiled an entirely different version of the latter EP the following May, showcasing their aforesaid UK successes.
Dirty Hit Records had now succumbed to the will of Polydor (Interscope in the States), who issued the band’s eponymous debut album THE 1975 {*8} to an overwhelming public response in September 2013. However, mixed critical reviews from a disgruntled Rolling Stone to an in-tune Clash led the way in a decidedly divisive peppering of attitudes. Q magazine was more or less a good ‘un, not sitting on the fence when cherry-picking the pop tracks as akin to a number of 80s alt-pop acts (THOMPSON TWINS and CHINA CRISIS). Whether the emo-centric lads would’ve been better finding etchings referring to the year 1985 was another matter of opinion, but in the HOWARD JONES-like `Chocolate’, the aforementioned PLACEBO-esque anthem `Sex’ and The POLICE-ish `Talk!’ (the stand-out track by miles), The 1975 had quickly come of age. Interspersed between class dirges, appeared a couple of ENO interludes, while that connection could lead one to the alt-disco of `Settle Down’, the crescendo-inducing `Robbers’, and the fist-pumping festival-addled `She Way Out’.
Exactly two and a half years on, sprinkled intermittently with corresponding chart singles `Love Me’, `UGH!’, `The Sound’ and `Somebody Else’, the 4-piece came up with the dandy idea to name their sophomore set after its dreamscape but long-winded title track, I LIKE IT WHEN YOU SLEEP, YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL YET SO UNAWARE OF IT (2016) {*8} – pop quiz aficionados take care! Opening with another brief eponymous filmic mantra to settle the nerves, the aforesaid preview downloads respectively recalled DURAN DURAN, PRINCE, TAKE THAT-type boy-bands and MICHAEL McDONALD – some with unnecessary explicit connotations. Ditto the YAZOO-esque `A Change Of Heart’, but not the BOY MEETS GIRL-cloned `This Must Be My Dream’. Almost schizoid with plenty Yankee dollar funking and floating all over the shop, `She’s American’, the gospel groove of `If I Believe You’ and `Loving Someone’ were a million miles from the ambient ENO overtones of `Please Be Naked’, the shoegaze of `Lostmyhead’ and the folk-y `Nana’. The marmite effect of The 1975 is one for the generational divisions to debate over in the ensuing few years before album three.
Bolstered by no less than five hits, `Give Yourself A Try’, `Love It If We Made It’, `TooTimeTooTimeTooTime’, `Sincerity Is Scary’ and the anthemic `It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’, Healy and Co scaled the charts again (US No.4) with third set, A BRIEF INQUIRY INTO ONLINE RELATIONSHIPS (2018) {*7}. The first of these singles was quite effective in their understated way of popping over to Salford to borrow the guitar riff and drum beat from JOY DIVISION’s `Disorder’. Sacrilege to some, or a canny ploy to “Hook” in older fans of “Unknown Pleasures”, The 1975 were only four years off by post-punk proxy. And judging by the unnecessary use of the “f”-word on “Love It…”, unadulterated sniggers were guaranteed all round.
© MC Strong/MCS Mar2016-Dec2018

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