"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. Understand the man who must inhabit these extreme regions, monstrous and vulval, damp with memories of violation. Even if half-mad he is absorbed into the public's total madness; even if fully rational, a bureaucrat in hell, a secret genius of survival, he is sure to be destroyed by the public's contempt for survivors. Fame, this special kind, feeds itself on outrage, on what the counselors of lesser men would consider bad publicity - hysteria in limousines, knife fights in the audience, bizarre litigation, treachery, pandemonium and drugs..."
And so begins Don Delillo's incredible novella Great Jones Street. It's a killer paragraph that came to mind when listening to the second album by The 1975. Not just because its cover features a neon sign, and their nonsense title that would make any prog-lovin' Fiona Apple fan wince (seems as wry and silly as some of those Godspeed ones, to me).
You'll likely only be wincing at it if everything you know about The 1975 is by reputation: that they’ve got a fanbase rivalled only by One Direction (and they’re sort of The Rolling Stones to 1D’s less-edgy Beatles), and that their peacock of a singer says things in interviews that are so ridiculous that it seems the only media training he’s ever had involved meeting Noel Gallagher in a lift. Perhaps you're grimacing at the title because you're a #REALMUSIC fan, who has heard some of their garish Duran Duran-meets-Panic at the Disco pop bangerz. But oh! how wonderfully garish it all is. And oh! they’re so exciting, interesting and oh! what a much-needed band they are.
On the surface, much like Gaga's Fame Monster, I like it when you sleep... is intended to be a record that wrestles with notoriety, and the associated delirium. Notions of 'true fame' come in and out of focus, amid talk of the ridiculousness of modern living, along with various confessions of the Hot Pixie Dream Boy. The fractured tales of a life lived with beauty and attention should be grating, and yet here we are, rubber-necking, gawpin', on the cusp of history, about to see The 1975 inevitably become one of the biggest bands on the planet - and rightly so!
Lyrically, Matthew Healy remains under Morrissey's spell. He's also incredibly self-aware, but in reaching through the fourth wall like it's some sort of Stargate, it makes for occasional moments that are incredibly vivid and direct (especially on the Bright Eyes-ish album closer). And for all the playful pretensions of the album's title and those interview braindumps, it's with lines like "I'll quote On The Road like a twat" that it's clear this isn’t a record that takes itself all too seriously. Except when it does, on the glorious suite of songs at its heart, which span from the mournful pianos on the Dead Cities-era M83 instrumental 'Please Be Naked' to the Kate Bush bloops of 'The Ballad of Me and My Brain' that’s followed by 'Somebody Else', which could easily come from a Cut Copy or Chromatics record via 'Lostmyhead's Sigur Ros spiral into a hazy-guitared My Bloody Valentine outro. Then there’s the incredible 'Loving Someone' that borrows a bit of Alt-J's slumber-pop template and does a bit of rummaging through Prince's Sign O’ The Times but mangles it with The Avalanches or Air’s bittersweet cut up hooks. This combo is startling, not least for its poise and grace that’s a million miles from the glorious clatter of ‘Ugh!’ or the anthemic magic of 'The Sound' and 'Love Me' or the erratic digi-emo-funk of their debut (which is a near perfect summer morning in the gym record, FYI!). It's this that sets them apart from almost everything else that's going on right now, and even on 10th listen, it still breathtaking.
If there’s one thing that glides through everything The 1975 do it’s their love of a memorable melody that’s enriched and enhanced by some pretty sophisticated production textures - and some highfalutin use of vocabulary is thrown in for good measure. In many ways, if Daft Punk were our generation's Led Zeppelin who drew a year zero line in the sand, then The 1975 are probably the first of the new generation to imbibe all the best bits of the distant and recent past, whilst being cynical enough about the present to re-present it in a way that both fits in (they're very #relevant) and is an anathema to the hits-driven culture from which they are - as they kids say - killin’ it. What they’ve made is a bold body of work that sounds effortless and odd and sophisticated. What they do next is likely to be stadium-filling and bonkers and brilliant, but it matters little when what they're doing now is so sensational.
9Sean Adams's Score