The 1975 [New Album Review]
It was Christmas 2013, I was visiting a friend in Zurich, Switzerland and he went to MediaMarkt and bought me a present, it was The 1975’s eponymous debut, released earlier that year. While I loved the thought, I didn’t know the band, and didn’t actually hear the sound of that CD until about 7 months later, when another friend of mine told me to listen to this song that sounds like it came right out of an 80’s disco. That song turned out to be ‘Girls’. I was pretty instantly hooked. Later that summer we were driving around the Milanese highways blasting the CD over the car stereo.
Now, since Feb 26th 2016, we’ve finally been able to see what the band has been working on for the last 3 years. And trust me, it sounds good. I like it when you sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It… Nope, not being creepy. That is the name of the new album by British indie/hipster/weird-alien people band The 1975, also the name of a song ON the album (what a mouthful). I want to write about it today, because it just went online on Spotify this morning, and I have been walking off to lectures with some really beautiful sounds ringing in my ears.
So fast forwarding to this morning, I decided to give my first listen. I was instantly sent back to that moment when my friend first recommended Girls to me. I had pressed play on the track ‘She’s American’ and it has the same feel (albeit much more developed and crafted). I remembered how good that song made me feel in the moment, so I decided, lets go deeper and talk some music.
1. The 1975
Pretty standard, a lovely bright, quasi flourising opening, then… Nothing. Just kidding, about 5 seconds later we’re hit with a wall of sound in the form of reverberated voices, hums, buzzes and what I imagine is guitar feedback. Almost like a theatre style opening, then it’s over about as quick as it started, jumping right into the funk of the next song. I’m a bit mixed about how to go about this, I feel like I was left wanting a bit more, but maybe in retrospect that’s a good thing?
2. Love Me
One would question whether he’s calling for Love or ‘Love’- if you know what I mean (hehehehe)- but one can make their own decision when it comes to this funky, hot tune. It’s got synthesised horns, guitar (both clean and distorted), a high energy bass line driving it, and some punchy drums. Definitely a dance tune, and I mean a ‘everyone in the room put your hands up and rock your body’ kind of dance. The band themselves state that the track is about that feeling you get when you reach fame, when you’re on the road for years and all you get wherever you go is love and recognition. The thought can be daunting, and energising at the same time, which is why they try to punk it out in this song, either letting out frustrations, or coming to terms with it and just saying, ‘bring on the love!’.
Umm? Ah? Sigh? Well what can I say, maybe they were running out of names when they came up with this? Maybe its an homage to the 1992 computer game, in which a caveman is trying to appeal to the hot potential cave chicas (no I did not know anything about this game before typing ugh into google). I guess the song is trying to communicate the frustration we endure trying to go after something, or someone, and make it clear that ‘we aren’t giving up this time’, even though sometimes we eventually just have to. If you’re not really looking for any meaning, then this song is still a chilled out, sit down, but still-kind-of-bounce-your-head-about kind of tune.
4. A Change of Heart
I love when the harmony moment comes into this song at 2:30, can I just draw attention to that. everything they do in this moment is a wonderful way to grab the listener’s attention mid-song. The song really brings out some lovely musical colours, and a sense of ambience. The title suggests to me that its one where we need to focus in on the ‘self’. We need to think about the actions, on your part to an extent, but also have a sense of empathy towards the other person (probably a lover) being talked about in the song. Seeing perspectives is the best way to put that picture together, and understand the ‘change of heart’. I like the guitar, it retains a sense of reality in the song. In between all these flowing colours and sounds, the guitar, when it enters holds us back to reality, because we can try to look into our minds, but we need to be aware of what’s around us.
5. She’s American
What more can I say, really. This song doesn’t need much of an introduction, because it gives off the same vibe as ‘Girls’ in the debut album. I loved that song, I really like this one. I can’t say whether I like it more than ‘Girls’, but I definitely like it. I guess this song is just that feeling when you try something new. For a young Mancunian guy, you don’t meet an American girl every day, so he’s enjoying this new feeling. He hits the song into that 80’s feel very well. I think its rooted alot in the funk of the guitar and the use of that vintage synth sound. It’s the kind of music that we are proud to associate with american culture, as it hits well with the disco feel that they are trying to create in the song.
American girls have always perceived British guys as ‘hot’ and it’s no different in what they try to get across in the song. The song is about perceptions, and to some extent prejudice (with the ‘fix my teeth’ lyrics). It’s definitely one for all the American girls out there in The 1975-land.
6. If I believe You
There are alot of thoughts that come into this piece. In my little sneak peek at this album earlier on, I presented just one interpretation of the love aspect within this song. The way you take this song comes from what words you decide to take literally. I could hear the words ‘Jesus, show yourself’ not as something literal in the religious sense. This could be due to my atheistic/agnostic (I’m still not sure) beliefs, but I see it more as a call for that impossibly unlikely event to happen, likening it to a kiss from a girl who is one in a million, or a billion, or even a universe. Trust me, I may or may not have had that moment, and I may or may not have said words similar to that in the moment.
Despite what I say, this song definitely has a strong interpretation towards God, as Genius.com will argue in their analyses of the lyrics. The words resonate with the idea of losing religion, wanting to find it, but being unable to believe, then trying to fill it with other things such as drugs and alcohol. The gospel choir accompaniment to certain parts of the recording, could also fuel this idea of religion, because it’s obvious that gospel is without a doubt the best way to bring religion to people, its just relatable, fun, and inclusive.
Please religious people, don’t take this the wrong way, but I really don’t want to believe that such a beautiful slow dance tune, with an atmosphere better suited to the love between two people, could be about god, trying to find him, and just generally being depressed. God has a whole book devoted to him, can we just have one song? You can really take this song in whatever way you want, but sometimes the lyrics are not as important as what the music gives you, as a person, when you just listen.
7. Please be Naked
He says what we all have on our minds when we think of that one special person at some point in our romantic lives. This purely instrumental track is not necessarily something I would have on as background music while doing those things adults do behind closed doors. The song is definitely about something much deeper than just having sex. The song establishes the warm feelings that two people share with each other as they become intimate, and they create that image through a brilliant, flowing shroud of sound, wrapping around the lovers, caressing them, intertwining them in an eternal embrace. The incredible thing about many of the songs on this album, is the way it creates ambience. It does so in a way that builds large amounts of space, isolating the self. It isolates a person, or in some cases two people, making them feel like they are alone even when surrounded by a huge crowd. Definitely bring your headphone splitter if you want to listen to this track.
From the title, from the powerful chords, we’re in for a slow descent into madness here folks. The next four songs are going to present us with ideas and thoughts that would invoke what we feel when we are presented with a difficult problem. A problem which changes your whole belief system, your lifestyle. The swirling guitar tremolo is the characterisation of this fall from grace, disappearing into the night. It’s like a static spiral into defeat. I say static, because we are still here, we are still in the moment, but everything around us and about us is changing.
Take this song as a pinch of salt, some could call it filler, between other, more prominent songs on the album. Others could say that you really need to listen to it, to get the feel of what’s coming next, because it seems clear that the songs on this album are linked, creating a concept or storytelling album. It’s not single material (in my opinion) but it’s good for a chill down sesh.
9. Ballad of Me and My Brain- (interlude)
First impressions: This is a hearkening back to the opening song, which is why I would really say that it’s something of an interlude within the album. It isn’t by any means labelled that, but I do feel that we need some sort of break mentally or emotionally within the flow in order to take in what we’ve been listening to.
When listening harder to this song, you can get a sense of the confusion in a person’s mind when they have alot of different thoughts cycling around. This is characterised by the way Matt Healy screams out his lyrics with a passion. The chorus feel from the opening track is also there, but in a more disorderly, chaotic singing style. Everything about this track sounds like some sort of mental breakdown, but in an ironically laid back way which still makes the piece very enjoyable to listen to.
10. Somebody Else
The placement of this right after ‘The Ballad’ really puts some perspective on what we’re discussing in this song. The track is broken down, in a resigned matter. Like someone who has given up, finished with a lost love, but has to deal with the fact that lost love is/will inevitably be ‘intertwined with somebody else’. This piece resonates with me because right away from the title, I can only think about all my past relationships, and how they eventually (or quickly) moved right on (just as I did), but I had to come to that acceptance, by myself no less. It can be a hard thing to do sometimes, just make sure that you have this song to listen to while you go out on your walks to ponder life, the universe, your broken heart, etc.
11. Loving Someone
This song brings yet another thought into the fray. Its not necessarily an answer to the previous song, but it creates this sense of confusion. Its like society coming down on you and telling you to be loving someone, as has been the status quo for as long as humanity can remember. Union and love and concepts of romance are probably as old as humanity itself, and it’s just common knowledge, and expected of us to be loving someone. I particularly loved that one line ‘I’m the Greek economy of cashing intellectual checks.’ It speaks on the level of intellect in songwriting, but he brings out how he has been in crisis for a long time. He is stuck in a rut, and while society has expectations of him, he feels he should be looking deeper for solutions and meaning. Its a continuation of this long stream of ambient songs, that you can listen to in a multitude of situations, but they are mostly solitary, reflective situations. The work gone into the music backing this is brilliant, and alot of these songs so far have this mesmerising quality to them.
12. I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it
So, I would expect this to be the album in a nutshell. It has this dreamy opening, like something of a modern day lullaby. I could put this on as I’m winding down to go to sleep at night. I’m surrounded by the stars in my mind when I listen to it. It’s definitely a night song. It’s very minimalistic with lyrics, the only words are ‘Before you go, turn the big light off’.
The song presents us with that sense of comfort, the repeated lyrics are such a mundane thing you might say to a lover just before going to sleep. You want to keep the little light on, just so you can see them sleep. I lied when I started this article. I have said the words of the title before, not in the exact same format, but I have felt that feeling before. It’s one of the most beautiful things you can do in life, watching the one you love fall asleep. It’s a contemplative song though, I wouldn’t be listening to it while falling asleep. It is just a means to bring back those feelings, those moments, and associate them with this music. Try it now, think of your lover closing your eyes, and get lost in the loops and the beat and the twinkles of this song. Yet again I can see stars all around when I hear this song, I feel on top of the world, in space, with nothing but the one I love drawn out in the stars.
13. The Sound
The album seems to shift gears, taking a new approach to this nihilistic mentality that has taken over the atmosphere. We’re back on a dance track. Pump up the volume people and start moving! This is that silly romantic feeling we get, when we can say, or even we think we’re certain that we know someone. It’s quite a blissful feeling, being able to say that you know someone right down to their heartbeat. People like that have the ability to do many things in life, starting with their lover, or their friend. This song brings it out. It brings the fireworks, the flashing colours, that sense of unity, especially characterised by the chorus singing on the refrain. The guitar solo is definitely a nice add on to the song, it’s not prominent, or particularly virtuosic, but it helps that energetic atmosphere.
14. This Must Be My Dream
This little power ballad is really cute. It’s almost a cultural critique in a nutshell. Talking about people who aren’t really connected to reality, stuck to their phones, to social media. On another level its looking at another type of dream, where you fall in love with someone, but you wonder to yourself, are you in love with the person or the concept? Definitely, in terms of content, music, harmony, that absolutely fabulous sax solo in the middle, this is one of the best songs on the album. It’s got that slower ball room energy, but still something to hit on the party soundtrack. It takes some of the ambience from earlier on in the album, but brings more energy into it. It’s like the journey is becoming brighter, headed towards sunrise, and just developing more. If the album was made up of lots of tracks like 7–11, I would probably not have given it as good a review.
All I can say is that you know love is a prime topic with this band when they release a song named after the ‘city of love’. I don’t know how the naming quite works for this song, because when I think of Paris and love, I think of fireworks, expression, passion, and here I’m getting sparks, embers and faded memories. There is an element of nostalgia to this song. It remains static, there isn’t a great deal of development, much in the way memories are pretty static in our minds, they remain in the past, and they mostly don’t change, unless you force them. This song is maybe one of the weaker ones, maybe the dying flame with the album 2 songs from the end. It’s nice to listen to, but unless you’re going to fish deeper for meaning, there are a few listens and then you get a bit bored.
Here’s one for all the acoustic lovers out there. Curl up, maybe out in a field with a blanket, or just in bed. This is a cosy song, maybe if you have more energy than that then you could get up and have a slow dance, or a sways, but this is more of a song for listening.
Matt brings back topics of religion, this time in a more resigned fashion. He’s given up his belief in God, he’s just drifting on with the music, there is some reflection, but the song just brings out the good in all of us, that peaceful side. This song is the side of humanity that shows we can be peaceful, tells us ‘life’s too short’ to hold on to bad memories or feelings, and just tell the people that mean/meant/will mean something to you, that you care about them, no matter what’s happened in the past.
17. She Lays Down
There really are two ways to end a journey, with resignation, or with a BANG. I had my money on the latter, but I am not disappointed that it was the former. They take that little acoustic story they made in the previous story and dragged it into this sensation of ‘falling asleep’, closing your eyes. It tells us to look to tomorrow, prepare for new adventure. The song is devoted to the post-natal depression Matt’s mother suffered in the past. Without knowing this, I can still derive the sensation of loss, coping, failing to cope, and then acceptance that one has to go through at some point, or multiple points in life. This album, with this closing song draws us to this cycle of many feelings that we go through in life, but tells us we have the power within us to move on and continue, no matter how much we may just want to give up.
As I sit here late at night, writing next to the window, looking out at a dark Birmingham street through my window, I can’t help but see the stars when I listen to this music, and there are few things I cherish more in life than those little flickers of light in the sky, that we have used to draw pictures, search for life, discover the very origins of this cosmic mess we call life.
I can say that there is no clear picture this album presents us with, and if you don’t like that, then you get to like the music at the very least. The album itself has its ups and downs, both emotionally and critically. I can’t pick up a strong sense of continuity in the album. This makes me queston whether these are songs trying to tell a story in the strictest sense, or create a broken picture to prove a point. Nevertheless, the songs on this album show a development in the band that I am very impressed with, and I would like to see where they take their sound next. Until then, we have some good music to listen to.
I ask that if you have managed to make it to the bottom of this wall of text, and you don’t feel like you wasted precious minutes of your life, hit the heart at the bottom of this article. More importantly, do give me a reply to let me know what your own opinions are about the album.