Release Date: Feb 26, 2016
Record label: Interscope
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Indie Rock, New Wave/Post-Punk Revival
Each song on the 1975’s sophomore album is a surrender to some rapturous yet mind-warping intoxication. Narcotic, erotic, pill-shaped, heart-shaped, ingested through the eyes or taken in by the tongue, these intoxications vary slightly by type but incite a uniform effect: addiction, a feeling of being totally and cripplingly dependent on drugs, flesh, or some vein-flooding admixture of the two. Simply put, it’s stimulation these Manchester indie-rockers are after; once one high wears off, they’re already chasing the next one down, their slick, avant-prep outfits and exaggerated affections in tow.
Elsewhere, in keeping with the overall '80s adult contemporary sound, tracks like the shimmeringly moody "Somebody Else" and the sweetly romantic "Paris," bring to mind Tango in the Night-era Fleetwood Mac. Admittedly, at 17 tracks, I Like It When You Sleep is long. And given the poetic, atmospheric nature of many of the songs, it's somewhat unwieldy in one sitting.
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.
The 1975’s second album arrives freighted with expectations, and not just the usual expectations that get heaped upon the follow-up to a platinum-selling debut: advance publicity suggests that listeners should prepare for something strange, confounding and experimental. Some of this has been emanating from what’s left of the music press: “hugely ambitious and surreal”, “no easy listen”, “2016’s most unpredictable album”. And some of it has come from the 1975’s frontman, Matty Healy, a man who happily seems to have made it his life’s mission to never knowingly think before speaking when in the presence of a journalist: “I’m challenging people to sit through an hour and 15 minutes and 17 songs that all sound completely different from each other.
The 1975 are driving a hard bargain. The shapeshifting Manchester band’s recent singles scan like ambitious blockbusters not made for a clear audience: too smart-aleck for Top 40 purists and too au courant for the record-collector types who share the band’s love for 30-year-old pop music. Yet somehow the 1975 continue to pack venues of big and very big sizes, chart singles both in the U.S.
The 1975's I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It is designed as a takeover, as the album's launch was accompanied by a live streaming Beats 1 concert, a first for Apple, and by twin pop-up shops in New York and London. But the band's sophomore effort still needed to deliver on their potential, and perhaps rationalize the increasingly erratic showmanship of lead singer Matthew Healy. And it does: At 74 minutes and 17 tracks, I Like It When You Sleep is a sprawling, compelling ode to the entire pop canon of the 1980s, with enough ingenuity and sheer bravado that its best moments sound like a rewriting of the decade, not simply a revival of it.
Following their 2013 self-titled debut, there were at least half a dozen sonic paths the 1975 could have travelled. The Mancunian quartet boldly decided to pursue them all, and the result is the overstuffed, awkwardly titled and frequently brilliant I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it.It would be easy to write this band off as '80s pastiche; after all, the record's lead single, the insanely infectious "Love Me," sounds like it fell off the back of an INXS greatest hits collection. But such reduction would ignore the record's dense production that owes as much to Boards of Canada and Sigur Ros as it does Prince.
Last November, the 1975 frontman Matt Healy took shots at Justin Bieber's "What Do You Mean." "'When you nod your head yes but you wanna say no'—can we stop talking about girls who don't know what they want?" he despaired. "Can we stop talking about nothingness? No one's asking you to inspire a revolution, but inspire something." Like some of his provocative Manchester forebears, Healy has a giant mouth on him, but unlike them, he doesn't seem interested in tearing others down, just demanding more. This neurotic want drives his music, which in turn inspires wildly conflicting feelings: fervent adoration on one end, intense rage at the other.
You might just remember the gist of a 2011 single called What Makes You Beautiful, by One Direction. The girl was unaware she was beautiful – that’s what made her beautiful. The 1975 have leaned hard on the same sentiment for their long-awaited second album – a double, nearly – only their title takes a little longer to get to the point. Love Me, one of the 1975’s recent singles, meanwhile, leans even harder on another boy band, one with instruments – Duran Duran, circa Notorious.
Potential chart-toppers don’t come as bonkers, batshit and borderline insane as The 1975’s latest. Where else can you find funk-fledged madness, sorrowful ballads and strange shoegaze numbers in one place? Faced with the prospect of being one of the biggest bands in the country, these four have decided to test out their extremes. The results are a perfect mix of the spectacular and calamitous.
Despite their obvious mainstream appeal, The 1975 have been divisive since they burst onto the scene with their already extensive collection of radio-ready pop singles in 2012. This was demonstrated most recently by the bafflingly awkward spat between Matt Healy and Jon McClure from Reverend & The Makers, starting after the latter said that The 1975’s frontman “does his cake in”, before going on to compare the band to Boyzone. Although it’s easy to attribute McClure’s comments to sour grapes – The Reverend’s dislike of Radio 1 and playlist committees is well known – his later Tweet that “mass popularity and quality are often mutually exclusive” can regularly be applied to many of the artists that populate the charts.
Hey, what gives, fellas? INXS and Duran Duran weren't around in 1975. This ascendant U.K. quartet ground their second album in sleek dance rock that often feels like it was sculpted on a gaudy Eighties budget as the bandmates tried hard not to get too sweaty in their aqua-neon sport jackets. No shame in that – and they do it well, filtering in elements of spacy ambience (with echoes of acts from My Bloody Valentine to M83), Jacksonian R&B and arty dance pop.
There’s a clue buried somewhere in the clumsy, 16-word title of The 1975’s sophomore album, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It, that’s key to their new sound. It’s a clue that, despite the neon-soaked, art gallery minimalism of the album’s cover, signals the band is no longer preoccupied with being perceived as cool. This is a welcome change of pace and perspective from The 1975’s self-titled debut, which at times felt less like an album and more like a press release screaming “Next Big Thing” at anybody who would listen.
"Fame requires every kind of excess. I mean true fame, a devouring neon, not the somber renown of waning statesmen or chinless kings. I mean long journeys across gray space. I mean danger, the edge of every void, the circumstance of one man imparting an erotic terror to the dreams of the republic ….
As much as they might lead you to believe otherwise, nothing about the 1975 has ever been small. What started as a Britpop-underground band with grungy influences ballooned—seemingly overnight—into a Tumblr sensation packs stadiums with teen girls in tattoo chokers and Chelsea boots. But that’s what’s so provocative about the 1975’s newest effort.
The 1975 likes to keep people guessing. Early indications (and a Saturday Night Live appearance) hinted that the U.K. band’s second album, I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It, would be a gloss-funk homage to Prince, INXS, and Notorious-era Duran Duran. However, just like the group’s 2013 self-titled debut—a defiantly mismatched jumble of yelping indie-rock, vintage electropop, and the occasional soulful piano ballad—this new collection is wildly audacious.
Manchester's the 1975 are ostensibly a pop band, and thus built to pander to a broad audience. But their transparent attempt to woo as many people as possible on a record that moves between dance-floor rock swagger, synthesized indie rock ambience and bleary-eyed bedroom folk crooning takes artistic neediness to a strange level. It's not easy to criticize a band in 2016 for presenting multiple tones, sounds and genres.