After months of cryptic teasing, UK band The 1975 have returned with ‘Give Yourself a Try’, the lead single from their forthcoming album, ‘A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships’. The song sees the group travel forward from the 80’s into the 2000’s, shifting away from the funk and soul-tinged synth pop that dominated their previous album in favour of a style that blends emo with post-punk revival. It’s commendable that The 1975 have managed to change their sound pretty drastically twice in a somewhat short lifespan without any major trainwrecks. But if the transformation that came with their last album was a step in the right direction (which it undoubtedly was), this new single is a noticeable step back.
It’s important to address the most glaring issue with the track, and that is, without a doubt, its use of the riff from Joy Division’s ‘Disorder’. The main takeaway from ‘Give Yourself a Try’ for many has been that the song’s lead guitar line is just a blatant rip-off of Disorder’s (and they’d probably be right, considering the band have yet to acknowledge the similarities between the songs or give writing credits to Joy Division’s guitarist, Bernard Summer).
The use of the riff isn’t an issue in itself – the issue lies in the fact that nothing interesting is done with the riff. After unabashedly bursting in before the first verse, it barely lets up for the rest of the song, unable to blend in with the rest of the instrumentation for the most part due to its piercing fuzz tone (which gets increasingly grating throughout the song).
Throughout the band’s career thus far, the lines between irony and sincerity have become increasingly blurred in singer Matt Healy’s lyrics. There’s an obvious satire in what he’s singing in this case, but it feels like the kind of humour or supposed wit that appeals to the one delivering it far more than anyone listening to it. With this in mind, the mention of 16-year-old ‘Jane’ taking her own life feels incredibly out of place. Lines like “I found a grey hair in one of my zoots/Like context in a modern debate I just took it out” are just plain eye-roll-inducing.
The most noticeable strength of a The 1975 song usually lies in its chorus, and, in the case of this track, is the saving grace. The instrumentation seems to mesh together far better than at any other point in the song, with the bass line and backing guitar lines complimenting each other particularly well. Healy’s vocal melody, though somewhat lacking in intensity compared to the instrumentation behind it, is pleasant, contagious (admittedly, it’s been stuck in my head all week), and far more direct than the rest of his melodic lines throughout the song. As well as this, his recitation of the song’s title has a noticeable, refreshing earnestness to it, despite the fact that each lyric that precedes a chorus is drenched in sarcasm (e.g. “You’re getting spiritually enlightened at 29”).
The 1975 have had enough good songs at this point to make me not go into a new single wanting to hate it, and there are multiple elements to ‘Give Yourself a Try’ which make me believe that, somewhere underneath the overly glossy production, incessant riff and trying lyricism, there’s a solid track that could have existed. What we’ve ended up with is a frustratingly misguided single that feels like it’s been released 10 years too late. Considering the fact that the band have two albums set to be released in the near future, there’s bound to be better material on the way. Let’s just hope they don’t lift an instrumental part from any more post-punk bands as obviously next time (they’re pulling from The Cure enough as it is).