Like its debut, The 1975‘s I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful, Yet So Unaware Of Itopens with a minute-plus self-titled overture — a slow welling of synths and Matt Healy’s Mancunian purr. But this time out, the track “The 1975” is heavier, more dramatic — willing to gin up more anticipation for what’s to come, as if it’s going to be big.
In 2013, leading his band through its first American tour, Healy was moving too fast to take stock. “The best analogy that I’ve come up with is… a holiday romance,” he told one interviewer. “It’s when you get home that you really understand it for what it was.”
I Like It When You Sleep shows the band’s rich and confident approach to its seemingly contradictory sonic smorgasbord
A series of EPs and a snowball of blog buzz had brought the band abrupt, vertiginous success; their debut was putting stars in the eyes of teenage girls and arch critics alike.
Four years later, one hour long, even more stylistically omnivorous than their debut, and swaddled in that insane title, I Like It When You Sleep is the something bigger: a braver, more delirious synthesis of ’90s punk and ’80s art-pop.
It’s also often a starrier turn for Healy, who belongs to a long tradition of pansexual frontmen capable of coming across effeminate and macho at the same time, and of obliterating both categories. (The U.K. holds no monopoly on this, but between Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Johnny Rotten, Morrissey, and Jarvis Cocker, they’ve always been a major shareholder.)
In videos, Healy twitches, struts both ironically and not, and mugs his way through lyrics that joke about and crystallize lovesick desperation. His act is just as vivid on record — disembodied, reduced to a voice that defaults to a gulp — he’s still playfully physical, sexy while mocking the idea of sexiness.
On The 1975, that playful gulp was mostly harnessed to melodies as crisp and efficient as American pop-punk. “The City,” “Sex” and “Chocolate” were as lean and concrete as their titles, and their lyrics were emotionally charged zingers.
But the band’s clutch of early EPs (recorded after the album, released before it) pointed to bigger, stranger things. Epics like “You” unwound the band’s knotty pop into a slow glaze; “Head.Cars.Bending” bounced Healy’s voice over a lurching, cybernetic beat. Even the version of “The City” on their debut EP Facedown privileged a rumbling bass and starry synth haze over the fat, propulsive drums that dominated the mix.
Bets hedged on the first album — that The 1975 are a Curve-like electro-shoegaze band, Eno acolytes or spare, earnest balladeers — are now taken all-in
The self-titled debut didn’t indulge in this eclecticism as much, but it didn’t forget about it either; its pop rock was lightly spread with synths-and-guitar impasto that gave the album a blurry, neon glow.
With I Like It When You Sleep, what was a spread is now a stew. The band’s way with a hook securely established, they’re free to dive into the bubbling swirl they had previously only waded in.
“If I Believe You,” with its jagged, cut-and-paste choir, is the band’s most wholeheartedly R&B song yet while the bubbling synth pop ballad, “A Change of Heart,” is mostly empty space until its breezy, blissful final minute. The seven-minute “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful, Yet So Unaware of It” — is a rugged electronic soundscape.
“We’re an evolved ambient music project,” Healy said at the time of the band’s debut. He didn’t mean they were the next step after Brian Eno, but that ambient musicians was what they were underneath, what they had always been. On I Like It When You Sleep, the band puts this boldly on top, and it stays there, with a few exceptions.
“Ugh!” is a classic punchy pop song, while the single “She’s American” makes a chilled-out return to ground first covered by “Settle Down” from the band’s debut.
It’s clear that bets hedged on the first album — that The 1975 are a Curve-like electro-shoegaze band, Eno acolytes or spare, earnest balladeers — are now taken all-in. What I Like It When You Sleep shows is the band’s rich and confident approach to its seemingly contradictory sonic smorgasbord inside a cool, blue Eno solvent and reveals the next big thing.