The 1975 seem to be taking tentative steps onto the independent music stage. Their first single, “Sex,” dropped last year with little follow up and under a different name – Slowdown. Now, the Manchester-based group are back – complete with another name, a website, a twitter feed, a facebook page and an EP – Facedown. The latter is awash with ambient guitars and promise but still short on conviction and clarity.
Let’s take the opening, title track, “Facedown.” I know terms like “song” are largely arbitrary, but I hesitate to call this installment a song. “Facedown” does give a nice glimpse of where these four boys may be heading. It is flush with ambient guitars, starting with a 45-second build, and ethereal vocals are folded nicely in at the one-minute mark. The song hovers here with some heart-on-the-sleeve lyrics that fade away at 2:51. Given the track’s ambient tone, and basically two minutes of composed music, it is hard to hear this as little more than an introduction.
That notion is somewhat cut short by the change-of-pace second track, “The City.” Here shoe-gaze guitars have been largely replaced by a driving drum machine that thumps along at the same clip from wire-to-wire. This repetitive beat is exacerbated by the exhaustive chorus, “Yeah, you wanna find love then you know where the city is x4.” Because of the song’s structure, the listener hears that line of chorus – some 16 times in 3:44. Furthermore, the last verse of the song is inexplicably repeated to finish the track. All of this is unfortunate, because “The City” has the DNA of an earmworm but its recurrent verses, beat and chorus leave it largely lifeless upon continued listens.
The remaining two tracks are slow songs. First of which is “Antichrist,” a moody number that channels a little Joy Division coupled with early Interpol. This is the longest piece on the EP and covers more ground than any other track. Additionally, lines like, “She said how can I relate to somebody who doesn’t speak/I said I feel like I’m treading water/Is it the same for you? x2,” synch up well with sparse instrumentation and echoed vocals.
The closing song, “Woman,” rolls naturally out of “Antichrist.” It too is a nice piece of slow, Jeff Buckley-insired music. But, as it stands, Facedown is composed of four-short songs, three of which are slow, and thus the conclusion feels unfinished. Promise remains for these tentative boys (all hovering around the legal US drinking age) as they grow musically and personally. It will be interesting to see if The 1975 can find their footing in a music scene flush with like-sounding talents, or if they will simply be lost to time.