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With Bohemian Rhapsody at number 1, massive, game-changing releases such as Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here and Springsteen’s Born to Run, as well as important albums released by now-classic artists like Fleetwood Mac, AC/DC, Black Sabbath and T-Rex, there may never have been a bigger year for guitar-based rock music than 1975. It’s these diverse influences, and the legacy of guitar-heavy British rock genres from punk to post-punk to New Wave, which inform the much-anticipated self-titled debut release of The 1975, the band charged (by The Guardian, it seems) as bringing back guitar music in 2013.
Manchester-based The 1975 have actually been floating around for over 10 years under various guises and it’s hard to believe that their self-titled album is their first full-length offering. Their first four EPs show a definite state of flux within the band, as their membership has changed dramatically over the past few years. Despite this self-identified “lack of identity” and despite clocking in at almost 16 tracks, The 1975 is a real statement of intent.
Multi-instrumentation is somewhat diverse and often judiciously employed. Girls is a bouncy, catchy, radio-friendly indie-pop rock defined as much by its joyous, simple infectiousness as its fairly immature lyrics. The real strength of this debut album is found in both its ambitiousness and its surprising cohesiveness: few debut albums span so many different sub-genres, reference so many different albums and artists and approach rock history with such egalitarian zeal. She Way Out is underpinned by a rolling synth wave and dipping, diving backing vocals, with the band showing off both their penchant for writing a memorable riff and their commitment to penning throwaway lyrics.
Lead single Sex has a chiming, ripping guitar line leading into an almost-spoken indie-rock meditation on surprise, surprise: sex and relationships. The album’s closer, Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You, is a subtle ballad, with piano and vocals uniting to deliver a tender moment on an otherwise busy album.
Like the fabled Jack of All Trades, The 1975 do a lot of things, but none with particular virtuosity: fans of 21st Century post-punk will prefer recent releases by US bands such as Girls and Surfer Blood. Fans of dreamy pop will prefer albums like Wild Nothing’s surprising stayer Gemini. And fans of indie rock are spoiled for choice with strong releases this year from the rejuvenated Arctic Monkeys and Vampire Weekend.
That all being said, The 1975 is an album for fans of guitar-driven rock and whatever flavour you like you will be able to find something that suits your taste. In the 11 years since their genesis, The 1975 have obviously listened to a lot of music, learned a lot from it, and have now created a lot of their own. Let’s hope it’s not another 11 years before their sophomore release, as there’s enough here to promise a bright future, if only they can throw off the shackles of the past.