The origin of The 1975’s namesake comes from the back of an old poetry book that frontman Matty Healy stumbled upon, with the words “1st June, The 1975” written on it. The latter half of this phrase became synonymous with the British quartet’s eclectic and barely categorizable sound, blending elements of alternative rock and 80s pop, but certainly not in a coherent manner. The band was subject to equal amounts of love and criticism, given the odd success of their first four EPs, Facedown, Sex, Music for Cars, and IV, as well as their self-titled debut record from 2013. Their predominantly black and white visuals and constant touring schedule also received a fair amount of attention. This public infatuation made way for an intriguing opportunity when the former half of the aforementioned phrase rolled around. For quite some time, Healy had been posting the phrase repeatedly on his Twitter account, leading fans to speculate an announcement about their sophomore record would come on June 1, 2014. On May 31, however, each band member posted a cryptic drawing that included a note stating that until pop culture’s infatuation with “postmodern reflective propensities and selfie awareness” died down, “…there won’t be any pop music or dancing with long hair”, and when June 1 finally rolled around, each member had deactivated all of their social media accounts. What many thought was the end of The 1975 turned out to be short lived as all accounts were reactivated the following day with their popular black and white aesthetic replaced by a more colorful, pink one, and a note from Healy stating the band was currently working on their second full-length. Since their image and sound have always coexisted on numerous levels, listeners were curious as to how this more vibrant iteration of The 1975 would play into the band’s sound. Nearly nine months later, their questions have been answered with the arrival of I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it. Naturally, a title this long should indicate how large the band’s ambitions are for this record, and clocking in at 74 minutes and 17 tracks long, it’s hard to claim otherwise.
Like The 1975’s first record, we’re treated to an eponymous intro track. While it initially sounds like the same song, new production and an added choir singing with Healy give it a darker tone than its predecessor. It leads right into the chaotic lead single “Love Me”. Lyrically dealing with narcissism and pop culture, with lines like “Karcrashian panache”, and sonically 80s-like, it’s a vibrant statement by the band that somehow doesn’t feel out of place with previous singles. “UGH!” follows in a similar but less chaotic manner. Like the previous track, the hook is memorable and the production is phenomenal. It’s slightly shorter than most of the tracks, but it makes way for more great songs like “A Change of Heart”. While the overall musicality is much softer and not exactly captivating, it’s in the track’s lyricism that the listener will find enjoyment, as Healy references lines from previously released songs like “Robbers”, “Sex”, and “The City”. “She’s American” bears a lot of similarities to tracks like “Settle Down” and “Girls”, as well as a similar chord progression and chorus to another album cut “The Sound”. The instrumentation is lush and quite precise, and it’s a great way to follow up the previous track.
“If I Believe You” starts out with swelling synthesizers and audible shouts of acclamation from churchgoers, leading into an organic-sounding, softly played drumkit in 3/4 time. The majority of the track’s lyricism touches on Healy’s frustration with religion and mainstream Christianity’s perception of God, with lines like “I’ll be your child if you insist, I mean if it was you that made my body, You probably shouldn’t have made me atheist”. An added gospel choir and continual swelling leads into a beautiful outro that is followed by the almost cinematic-like instrumental “Please Be Naked”. The melodies are expanded upon in the following track, “Lostmyhead”. The track’s processed and filtered vocals don’t detract from its other components, and while it might sound slightly lackluster at first, the rest of the band comes in near the end, giving the song a sense of grandeur with its climactic ending. “The Ballad of Me and My Brain” could very well be the strangest track not only on this record, but in The 1975’s entire discography. Healy sings with slight aggression about how he’s lost his brain set to what sounds like a distant cousin to the Chariots of Fire theme. Despite its absurdity, it’s quite enjoyable overall.
The second half of the record begins with the intriguing “Somebody Else”. The track incorporates a multitude of electronic elements that seem to overshadow the natural elements. I appreciate the vocal processing on this track quite a bit. While it’s one of the longer tracks on the record, it’s length doesn’t have any negative effect on the song overall. “Loving Someone” is reminiscent to tracks like “M.O.N.E.Y.” and “So Far (It’s Alright)” in its overall musicality, but the amount of spoken word is something entirely new for the band. While it’s not bad, it can be a little overbearing at times, mainly in the bridge, where Healy’s voice is anything but discernable. The amount of vocals in this track is made up for by the lack of vocals in the title track. Split into two parts, the first half feels more experimental and akin to the band’s earlier work than the latter, which plays off like modern dance music, albeit not dubstep. It feels slightly overdone, but the transition between the two halves, where Healy sings “Before you go, please don’t turn the big light off” is enough to make the track decent overall. “The Sound” touches on some musical and lyrical ideas presented on some earlier tracks. As previously stated, there’s a similar hook and chord progression to “She’s American”, but there are also lyrical similarities to “UGH!” with lines about conversations “not about reciprocation” that switch back to the protagonist’s narcissism. I was initially taken back by the lack of percussion in this song, but more listens have made it one of my favorites on the record.
“This Must Be My Dream” might be the best representation of both the The 1975’s previous work and this record. The ethereal synths, heavy drums, and accompanying saxophone solo harken back to tracks like “Heart Out”, but they sound more vibrant than their predecessor. It’s undoubtedly the highlight of the final part of the album, given how lackluster “Paris” seems. Musically, it’s not terrible, but at this point in the record, it neither makes a statement nor draws the listener in any further. It actually bores. The final two tracks, “Nana” and “She Lays Down” act as tributes to loved ones. Instrumentation is minimal and lyrics are both introspective and the opposite on both accounts. Particularly, “She Lays Down” might sound optimistic musically, but lyrically it’s probably the darkest song on the album. While an odd way to end such a long record, it’s still a delightful bookend to the rest of the tracks.
Usually, when I write these reviews, it’s all done on a track-by-track basis. Such a method is convenient, but quite formulaic, as it usually treats the record like the sum of its parts. More often than not, that assessment seems accurate. The 1975, on the other hand, are entirely different. Yes, I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it is bloated on all accounts. There are a handful of lackluster instrumentals and ballads, and there’s a reason why I’ve seldom mentioned the title. Despite all of this, The 1975 have had a love-hate relationship with being formulaic. This album bears a lot of similarities to their 2013 debut in terms of song structure and redundancies, but this new sound and image acts as the glue to a thesis of everything right and wrong with pop culture, love, God, etc. Their ambition is the defining characteristic of this 17 track masterpiece. While it’s not perfect by any means, one has to take into account art as a whole. There’s no perfect body of work. Everything is subjective, and what the consumer interprets from this art will more than likely be different than their peers. In the midst of all this subjectivity, however, everyone can agree that art is a beautiful thing, and that the immediate effect it has on you will outweigh the devil in the details we call error. Go ahead and question The 1975’s judgement regarding their sound and image, because they won’t care. To them, it’s just another means of death and rebirth; another brushstroke they can use to shape their next masterpiece.[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSnAllHtG70[/youtube]