More than being viably tense or innovative in any way, Britain’s The 1975 are noteworthy to me for their uncanny ability to consistently shirk total disaster, time and time again. Around Spring of 2016 or so, I was subscribing to NME, setting me by a stroke of luck narrowly within their free-of-charge print-circulation period (they’re now online-only), and amidst what was really an army of these do-no-wrong British pop-rock acts lining the runways, The 1975 emerged as unique partly for actually having any influences other than the Beatles and The Verve (eh… Prince, Michael Jackson, The White Stripes maybe). Their infectious hit single of that year “Love Me” would climb into and dance around in my ear drums with free reign, I admit, and by the time I realized that the vocal was partly a definite ripoff of The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing,” about a year had passed and it didn’t seem to matter anymore: I’d heard the song at least half a dozen times on satellite radio and would probably have had at least a 40% chance of buying the CD if it had been 1997. And I mean, this new album title is just dog gone cute. Kamahn.
So I knew this new one would be really POPPY and for that reason I wasn’t THAT optimistic about it, especially since as you’ll note I’d just finished analyzing a three-disc Grateful Dead live album on which it was rare to find a song under 10 minutes. In the case of really poppy goof rendered in short songs, basically the only chance that I’ll like it is with the help of extreme sonic abrasion, like in the case of No Age or The Men.
Sure enough, these songs are almost mind-bogglingly cheesy, with lines like “Spending a fortune on beans and seeds online / Give yourself a try” and “I think I called her three times / Didn’t mean to two-time you”, but somehow all the while the music remains textural enough, like the fragmented, angular guitar sound in “Give Yourself a Try” and the dueling mini-riff blips in “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” which sound a lot to me like flute and Moog synth, to allow it SOME value and avoid one of my ultra-low rating scores, which hurt me more than they hurt the artist, I swear (probably more, who’m I kidding).
Then, “How to Draw / Petrichor,” to the band’s credit, represents a sort of Radiohead-like dip into dubstep, the programmed drums taking a sort of rhythmic lead on this cut instead of just innocuously hanging back like the disco-rock that the rest of this album courts. But come on… allowing things to devolve into a cheesy major-chord malaise at the end like a warmed-over Let it Be Beatles is not scoring any points with DD. “Be My Mistake” starting exactly like a three-four version of The Black Keys’ “The Lengths” doesn’t help their cause either, although you’ve got to at least credit them with some good taste there. Could I listen to this album if I had to at a party? Yeah, probably. I suppose that counts for something. Or I can at least act like it does, as good as The 1975 seems at acting like they’re inspired toward occupying the comedically machinated mainstream of rock these days as they do.