Today marks the day that The 1975 release their long-awaited sophomore record I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It. At a whopping 75 minutes in length, When You Sleep could be perceived as an exercise in pretentious ego-expansion. In a recent cover interview with NME, Healy responded to this by possibility by claiming that he’d “rather people think I’m pretentious than not care.” Regardless of this, though, there is one pressing question surrounding the album – is at, as second albums go, any good? We delved deep into each individual track, rounding up our thoughts on all 17 of them below.
A whirling opening arpeggio line kicks of proceedings before Healy’s voice, layered in effects and other voices, takes the helm over a cacophony of ambient sounds and drones. It’s a serene intro to the record, but not exactly something worth getting excited about.
Lead single Love Me is an instant in-your-face track, serving as the album’s big opening statement. INXS-tinged guitars and 80s Bowie vocals intertwine throughout, with a slap bass underpinning the whole affair as if we were on a dancefloor in East London circa 1988. “Love me if that’s what you wanna do” sings Healy, his lyrical musings occasionally bordering on provocative, yet mainly sticking to his own thoughts on fame. “You look famous, let’s be friends” he sings at one point, this line sticking out in particular due to its bold, brash delivery. A brief solo courtesy of Adam Hann appears towards the end, with the rest of the record flittering in and out of Theremin-lead consciousness.
According to Healy, Ugh! deals with his previous addiction to cocaine. The record’s second single is slightly more down to earth than Love Me, sounding like something which could easily fit in on their self-titled debut. The addition of extra synth and funk elements is already ever-present, adding a new, somewhat happier direction to The 1975’s previously stale music. “I think I lost my phone so could you call it up for me?” asks Healy at one point, before a catchy chorus sees the scraggly-haired frontman for help. “You should be helping me” he claims, with the track swiftly coming to an abrupt end a few moments later.
A CHANGE OF HEART
The pace slows down slightly on A Change of Heart, with the focus heavily shifted towards synths and electronic percussion. At times, the track feels like a reflection on past failures, with Healy contradicting himself as he sings, “I never found love in the city”. This is a clear nod to debut album track The City, during which Healy boasts, “if you wanna find you should know where the city is”. A Change of Heart thus seems to be Healy’s letter of lovelorn resignation, with parts of it bearing resemblance (musically as well as lyrically) to Tame Impala stunner Yes I’m Changing. Both songs follow the same laid-back synth basis, something which underpins a frontman singing of love and regret. Guitars seem almost invisible over the course of the track, until a U2-esque jangle appears as the track slowly but surely dies down.
Ever since the band first played She’s American live last year, there’s been plenty of hype surrounding its studio version. Ross MacDonald’s dominating slap bass is a permanent fixture on this track, with Adam Hann and his guitar also being given more room to breathe throughout the song. Despite this, though, the focus seems to definitely be permanently shifted towards Healy and his effects-laden vocals. Drummer George Daniel seems more like a background fixture, his drums more often than not being mixed in such a way that they don’t stand out with an individual character. This was different on Love Me, where the percussion stood out, but now it seems less the case. She’s American is a catchy pop banger, so don’t be all too surprised if it becomes a huge hit.
IF I BELIEVE YOU
An opening swathe of synth drones (akin to Radiohead) operate predominantly here, with the stripped back track being mainly held together by Healy’s vocals and a percussive RnB beat. At times, Healy’s vocals are joined by a female choir who complement his dulcet tones with higher-pitched gospel tinges, although they tend to appear at random moments as opposed to in a structured manner. Over time, If I Believe You does pick up some structure, even if it does end up going back to square one near the end. A hypnotic synth section separates the main part of the track from its demure closing section, leading proceedings into the second instrumental track on the record.
PLEASE BE NAKED
Please Be Naked is the first fully instrumental track on the record, coming in at well over four minutes in length. Are these four minutes really necessary, though? To put it bluntly – no. The majority of the track is filled with Brian Eno-esque ambient soundcapes which sound quite good until you realize that it makes for an absolute buzzkill moment in the context of this album.
Lostmyhead follows a similar path to Please Be Naked, although there are just two lines which prevent it from being another instrumental interlude. The fervent electronics present are darker and more in-your-face than on Please Be Naked (which was, by contrast, stripped back), with Healy’s vocals bathed heavily in vocal effects. “And he said “I’ve lost my head, can you see it?” sings the frontman at one point, replacing ‘see’ with ‘feel’ on the only other line in the song. The final part of the song sees everything turned up a notch, with some actual guitars and percussion giving the track a slight positive lift. If you put both Please Be Naked and Lostmyhead together, you’d have a twinkling ambient track. In the context of this album, though, they make little sense other than serving as stopgaps between different parts of the record.
THE BALLAD OF ME AND MY BRAIN
An opening salvo of chopped-up choir vocals brings The Ballad of Me and My Brain to life, with its instrumental structure seeing the aforementioned choir vocals form a permanent part of the furniture on this track. Healy sings of literally losing his brain, asking his Mum to “check the far” because it “can’t have gone far”. As the track progresses, more elements enter the frame before everything dies out like a flame which has just had a bucket of water unleashed atop it.
As one of the five pre-released tracks, Somebody Else certainly makes more sense in the context of the whole record. It’s similar to their debut album, minus the ominous guitars which have been replaced by wailing synths and bubbly anthemic drones. “I don’t want your body” sings Healy during the minimal chorus, before a funk-laden verse takes the helm and lets the band strip everything back to just the key elements – synths, drums and Healy’s sickly sweet vocals.
Take everything you’d expected from The 1975 and throw it out of the window. Loving Someone is probably the furthest away you could get from your basic 1975 song, something which is largely down to Healy’s near-spoken vocals and the RnB-tinged percussive moments which underpin him. It’s a laid-back track, posing as an extreme contrast towards the similarly titled Love Me. “You should be loving someone” repeats an unknown effects-bathed voice throughout the track, making for a slightly out of the ordinary hook. It’s by no means a bad song whatsoever, simply demonstrating a more thought-out side to the band that we never knew existed. In and amongst its hip-hop/RnB instrumentals, Healy sings about Charlatan telepathy, Guy Debord and the Greek economy. These are all things which we’d never expect to hear coming out of Healy’s outspoken mouth, although now he’s said them it does make you wonder what else is on his mind.
I LIKE IT WHEN YOU SLEEP, FOR YOU ARE SO BEAUTIFUL YET SO UNAWARE OF IT
Brace yourselves, because this is another long one. At well over six minutes, the ambient title track is the longest song on the whole album. It’s also almost entirely instrumental, with just one line present to save it from becoming another synth-washed mess: “before you go, turn the big light off”. The underpinning synths, which sound like a cross between M83 and Random Access Memories-era Daft Punk, tend to hold the whole track together and help it from losing any sense of identity it had hoped for in the first place. Towards the end of the track, everything builds up ever so slowly before subsequently changing tack and turning into a danceable electro-funk banger. All ambience is thrown out of the window, being replaced by George Daniel’s slick percussive skills for a couple of minutes. Although the transformation present on this track is nice, it still seems like too much unnecessary sound.
The Sound, which had also been released previously, is one of the best songs on the record. This is largely down to its Italo-disco piano line (the 90s, anyone?) and pulsating percussive beat, both of which combine with Healy’s sweet vocals to create an effortlessly attractive pop track. It’s already proving a fan favourite, and it isn’t hard to see why. Even if this record sees The 1975 throw everything out of the window, it still possesses elements which absolutely define their sound. The Sound is a defining track in the band’s back catalogue, and one which they can definitely look back on and smile at.
THIS MUST BE MY DREAM
As the record finally comes to an end, a few more signs of convention enter the frame. This Must Be My Dream is a by-numbers synth-pop track, sounding like a missing piece in The 1975’s logical progression from 2013’s debut album to When You Sleep. “Wake me from my dream” asks Healy at one point, before more of the same instrumental structures flitter in and out of consciousness with one another. The only thing which sets this track out from the rest is its catchy saxophone solo, something which the band haven’t shied away from doing in the past. It’s by no means a memorable track, but definitely a satisfactory enough one to fill the supposedly necessary gap on the record.
Paris’ synth-y guitars and electronic percussion make for another laid-back five minutes, with Healy’s voice sounding more relaxed and smooth. On the track, Healy muses about previous drug use as he references the use of Seratonin and other people’s self-harm. As a band who like to be bold and open to their supposedly accepting fans, The 1975 do a good job in singing about things which their fans can either relate to or understand quite a bit about. Healy previously said that the album’s artwork was supposed to represent a Tumblr blog, something which is in line with a big part of the band’s fanbase. Unfortunately, though, Paris is a hit-and-miss filler track which doesn’t really go very far.
Nana focuses on the story of Healy’s deceased grandmother, with the lyrics addressing her in story-like fashion. It’s the first instance of an acoustic guitar on the record, with Hann’s acoustic rumblings accompanied by various sounds, synths and percussive beats as the track progresses. As the emotional track comes towards a demure end, Healy makes one apparently brash confession: “I haven’t been doing too well”. It gives off the impression that the song was written during a dark time in Healy’s life, with the frontman looking to his grandmother for solace.
SHE LAYS DOWN
The record’s final track, She Lays Down, sounds like a welcomed ending to a record which at times has felt far too long. Just like Nana, the track opens on subtle acoustics and Healy’s serene vocal tone. The only proper difference between this track and its predecessor is the subject of the lyrics, namely a drug-addled girl in need. “She doesn’t love me at all” claims Healy towards the end, with the whole track subsequently encompassing just his unaltered vocals and Hann’s acoustic guitar. Recorded fully live, you can hear the fragility in Healy’s voice and satisfaction in Hann’s as he puts his guitar down and says “that was it”. It’s a bit of a downer to end the record on, but it’ll do.
Had you taken away the record’s instrumental interludes, you would have a normal record which doesn’t sound a) too egotistical or b) overbearing. However, The 1975 have done their best in trying to avoid both options. 17 songs over 75 minutes and an album title longer than most indie band’s careers seems overbearing, but it’s what we’ve come to expect from The 1975. Don’t expect this flame to die out any time soon, because Healy and co. sound like they’re here to stay.
I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It is out now via Interscope/Dirty Hit. Watch the video for Ugh! below.