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The 1975 (2013), 5/10
I Like it When you Sleep (2016), 6.5/10
A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships (2018), 6.5/10
Notes on a Conditional Form (2020), 4.5/10
Being Funny in a Foreign Language (2022), 5/10

(Clicka qui per la versione Italiana)

The 1975, a quartet from Manchester fronted by vocalist Matt Healy, debuted with the four-song EP Facedown (2012), containing the first version of The City, the four-song EP Sex (2012), the five-song EP Music for Cars (2013), containing Chocolate, and the four-song EP IV (2013), that contains the second version of The City. Inspired by the themes of emo and screamo of the previous decade, and by the bands that wed those themes to pop hooks (Taking Back Sunday , Fall Out Boy, Dashboard Confessional), the 16-song album The 1975 (Dirty Hit, 2013) is a journey in the past, updated to the electronic production techniques of the 2010s. Dance-rock of the 1980s is well represented by their signature songs: The City, Chocolate and Sex (somewhere between Inxs and U2). Talk evokes Peter Gabriel and Robbers mimics the structure of Police's Every Breath You Take. The bulk of the album consists of mediocre fusion of emo-pop and funk-rock with varying degrees of electronic arrangements (M.O.N.E.Y., Settle Down, Pressure). It is difficult to salvage any song from the second half, which means that this is really just a "greatest hits" of the EPs plus a handful of songs (notably Heart Out) that deserved to be in a fifth EP and a lot of filler.

Electronic arrangements made the 78-minute album I Like it When you Sleep, for you are so Beautiful yet so Unaware of it (Dirty Hit, 2016) more poignant but no less derivative. Love Me mixes David Bowie's Fame with Duran Duran (with a shrill synth that sounds like a theremin), and Ugh mixes Prince and disco-music. A Change of Heart is pulsing atmospheric synth-pop but without the hooks of the Pet Shop Boys. The frantic funk-rock She's American sound like a lightweight version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers. A bit more original are the feverish singalong The Sound and the ragtime-soul Loving Someone. There is no question that their specialty is the pop ballad: the languid electronic Somebody Else evokes the era of the Tears For Fears, Paris is another Every Breath You Take clone, and especially the gentle elegy Nana borders on the dreamy folk-rock of Simon & Garfunkel. The trite synth-pop litany of Change of Heart shows the limitations of the format, and in fact the sleepy six-minute gospel-soul ballad If I Believe You is not too far from the world of Steely Dan. The 1975 have the time and the guts to experiment in a number of directions, from ambient music (the mysteriously static Please Be Naked) to shoegazing (the hypnotically distorted Lostmyhead). The Ballad of Me and My Brain is another nod at Peter Gabriel's avant-pop, and I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It morphs from a sophisticated glitch-dance a` la Four Tet into abstract soundpainting and finally into a hip-hop jam. The album is even longer than the first one, but this time there is little filler, and there are enough different version of the band to satisfy multiple audiences.

The 1975 converted to Radiohead-esque avant-pop on A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships (2018): the robotic lament of I Love America and America Loves Me, the funk-jazz lounge ballad Sincerity Is Scary (with chaotic chirping of horns and gospel choir), the abstract soundpainting of the first half of How to Draw/ Petrichor. Everything sounds like dejavu (or, better, "deja heard"), from the stately aria of Give Yourself a Try to the carefully architected bouncy Caribbean-infected dance-pop Tootimetootimetootime, from Love It If We Made It (a tribal staccato progression a` la Fleetwood Mac's Tusk) to the childish singalong It's Not Living If It's Not With You. It's as derivative as it gets, but quantity compensates for quality: it is hard to find an album with so many well-executed fakes. Unfortunately, half of the album is taken over by the ballads, crooners that span a broad spectrum, from Frank Sinatra to Bon Iver: nocturnal and jazzy (Mine, bathed in a shower of strings and caressed by delicate saxophone), languid orchestral (Inside Your Mind and I Couldn't Be More In Love), shoegazing (I Always Wanna Die), acoustic (Be My Mistake), and, most creative at all, the bossanova-esque Surrounded By Heads and Bodies.

The 22-song Notes on a Conditional Form (2020), the second installment of the trilogy "Music for Cars", was launched after seven singles. The album begins promising with a mournful piano accompaniment to a speech by teenage environmentalist Greta Thunberg, The 1975, followed by the expressionist voodoobilly People and, again changing completely style and scenario, by the electronic symphonic interlude The End. This feels like shock therapy, But then comes the dance-soul shuffle Frail State of Mind, which, despite the angst-filled lyrics, is trivial, mellow and just artificial. More of these trite electronic disco ballads litter the album, from I Think There's Something You Should Know to What Should I Say. Worse: there's the embarrassing melodic blues-rock Roadkill, the obligatory tribute to synth-pop of the 1980s If You're Too Shy (Let Me Know), the tedious country elegy The Birthday Party, some really bad folk-rock in Me & You Together Song, the Phil Collins-esque ballad Don't Worry, all the way down to the moronic singalong Guys. The instrumental parts aren't much more original, with a simplistic (childish?) ambient interlude Streaming, and Having No Head that turns a subdued piano sonata into a techno locomotive The most fragile songs fare a little better: the ethereal anti-religious lullabye Jesus Christ 2005 God Bless America and the acoustic Playing on My Mind. The best arrangements are to be found in the mock-gospel Nothing Revealed / Everything Denied and in the quasi-reggae Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy), but especially in the ethic electronic dance Shiny Collarbone and in the one song where the voice is actually used in a creative way, Yeah I Know, which boasts the only interesting beat on the album. Quantity is not quality, and semantics is not syntax.

Being Funny in a Foreign Language (2022), produced by Jack Antonoff, sounds like a tribute to Matt Healy's heroes of his childhood. the ebullient sax-driven funk dance Happiness, the Phil Collins-esque dance-pop romp Looking for Somebody, the Sting-esque ballad Oh Caroline, I'm in Love With You (halfway between Chicago and Toto), and so on. It feels like Healy is revisiting the pop charts of the 1980s. Best is The 1975: piano minimalism a` la Steve Reich and hypnotic psychedelic melody.