13 March 2016

The sound, the vision, The 1975

From black-and-white to blue neon and pink

When artists discuss their creative process, the poets their poetics, you have to restrain yourself from listening if only to avoid disappointment; because more often than not, the theory ends up more elegant than the practice. A reason that when The 1975 announced the release date of “I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it” months ago and interviews with the band about it surfaced here and there, I felt an equal amount of thrill and fear: Finally! But. Will the build-up — which began with a dramatic sequence of social media posts suggesting a breakup, followed by a stream of song titles and lyrics teasers alongside hints of a new color palette — be more beautiful than the album itself?

The Manchester-based fourpiece composed of Matty Healy (vocals, guitar), George Daniel (drums), Adam Hann (guitar), and Ross MacDonald (bass) has delivered something attractive in their self-titled debut album, “The 1975”: music that’s “very now” in a sense that it consciously defies definition (either that or I don’t have the vocabulary for it yet). For their sophomore outing, Healy shares that the record is “a distillation” of everything they’ve done before. And again it will have no regard for any arc or cohesiveness whatsoever. “My generation consumes music in this completely non-linear way and we reflect that, we create how we consume,” he adds. “Why create one type of music when nobody consumes one type of music?” The band is also going for a live experience unlike anything they’ve done before, with sets and visuals that pass for art installations. Will the band’s vision come to fruition?

Digression: The way I see it, we’re at a point where we do not just buy (pay money for and be convinced of) a record, but everything that’s attached to it: the music video, the artist’s backstory (a.k.a. personal life), the live performances, even the fandom and their conversations. Each of these elements influence each other as well as our appreciation of them. Sometimes I find myself enjoying a song I wouldn’t listen to on the radio when I hear it in a concert, what with a grand stage production, not to mention the crowd’s contagious energy. What I’m saying is, while they make for great entertainment, at the end of the day, I’ll still pay for music that I can be stranded on an island with.

When you look at The 1975 fans — so-called screaming teeny boppers indistinguishable from One Direction supporters — you’d think you’re in the wrong crowd, but that’s to insult the 15-year-olds out there and your once 15-year-old self, who knew exactly what tasteful music was. When you look at the band, they are rockstars in form — magnetic frontman, mysterious guitarist, leather jackets, nonchalance. They’ve got all the trappings of celebrity and artistic air but the good news is if you take all these away, lock yourself in a room and turn the lights off, they have the sound to keep your attention.

As previously expressed, songs in “I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it” are diverse. One moment you expect to hear gospel (The Ballad of Me and My Brain), the next moment you’re arrested by a trap-infused tune (Loving Someone), and in another moment it’s like a tragic romance film score is playing (Please Be Naked). Then there are the familiar The 1975 melodic sing-alongs (She’s American — reminiscent of Settle Down and This Must Be My Dream — a personal favorite).

Yet its strength is not in its diversity, but rather in its technical merits. As in the first album and past EPs, we have a kaleidoscope of songs that are simply well-written and arranged that you can play them on repeat and as a bonus fit into various playlists (from “sexy time” and “heartbreak” to “party” and “workout”).

If The 1975 ever felt pressure working on the “difficult second album,” I shared a degree of it. As a fan I wanted the band to succeed and evade a sophomore slump. So far I’m a satisfied customer looking forward to get out of my room and watch them perform with the entire fandom. For now it’s back to listening to the 17-track album and reading up the reviews and more interviews. You’ve got to love musicians who can and willingly articulate their thought process. There are only a few of them.

—Originally published on GIST.PH

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