Matthew Healy of The 1975 claims his single biggest influence is John Hughes, director of films such as “Sixteen Candles” and “The Breakfast Club.” Hughes’ movies primarily deal with coming of age, experiencing young love, and social hierarchies, all of which are themes that permeate throughout The 1975’s work. Above all, however, Hughes’ movies are synonymous with a particular decade: the eighties. The same could be said for The 1975, especially in regards to their newest album, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful and yet so unaware of it.
On The 1975’s self-titled debut album, the band flirted with the 1980’s, but infused modern alternative rock into most of the tracks. Arguably, the songs with the strongest modern twinge (“Chocolate,” “Sex”) were the most successful on the album. On The 1975’s sophomore attempt, Healy delves head-first into the eighties. The result is a series of underwhelming songs that read more as echos of the past than unique pieces. “Love Me,” one of the singles off of the album, sounds like a neutered version of David Bowie’s “Fashion.” On its own, the song is kind of impressive, but with any knowledge of Bowie, the tune just makes one want to revisit the Thin White Duke.
The 1975’s members play well together, and on many songs lock into a solid groove. On their previous album, these tight backgrounds provided a strong footing for Healy to let loose with his emotional and compelling voice. On I like it when you sleep, however, most songs ditch the band’s alt-funk feel for synth-drenched whisper-anthems. As a result, Healy’s unruly vocals are tamed and drenched in reverb and chorus filters, which do not flatter his voice. On “If I Believe You,” Healy sounds like he is attempting a Justin Bieber “Love Yourself” impersonation, something which doesn’t work for his vocals. This feeling of impersonation is pervasive on this album– The 1975 try to be a variety of somethings that they are not. A line from “If I Believe You” seems to describe the headspace the band finds itself in: “If I’m lost, then how can I find myself?”
If you couldn’t tell from that quote, lyrics have never been The 1975’s friend, and on this album the story hasn’t changed. Lines vacillate from melodramatic (I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful and yet so unaware of it) to mindless. On “She’s American,” Healy ruins the catchy instrumental by crooning, “If she says I’ve got to fix my teeth / Then she’s so American.” On the airy “This Must Be My Dream,” Healy sings, “What does all our love amount to? / We can’t make love when you fly around me baby” while a chorus repeats the title of the song behind him.
The 1975’s new album pulls from many sources, including Bowie, New Order, The Talking Heads, and other eighties pioneers. But above all, the band sounds like another modern band with an 1980’s obsession: Bleachers, Jack Antonoff’s solo project. Comparing Antonoff’s Strange Desire to I like it when you sleep is an interesting exercise. While Strange Desire is far from perfect, Antonoff manages to balance a blatant love for the eighties with a desire to make something fresh. The result is a series of incredibly catchy songs playing around Antonoff’s less-than-perfect voice. The 1975, meanwhile, avoid what they do best in an effort to change their routine and totally fall back into John Hughes’ decade.
Alternative Rock | Polydor Records