The Slowdown, Big Sleep, Drive Like I do, and now The 1975.
It was a very tortuous journey for this band from Manchester, 13 years of making music can be complicated and sometimes confusing.
In 2011 Slowdown started publishing their rough emo songs on their Soundcloud, making some non-professional videos on Youtube, and interacting with their few fans on Twitter.
After this year, however, they literally disappeared. Their Soundcloud, songs, Youtube channel were taken down, and they left us in this bewildering “break”, letting us wonder where they had gone.
A couple of years and a few EPs later, in 2013, they came back with one of their most famous old singles, “Sex“, with a really simple music video in the leader Matty Healy‘s garage with a lot, maybe too many, posters pinned on the walls. This was not taken too well, since after almost two years of nothing, they came back with an old song, even if renewed, and a clichè alternative-rock music video featuring improbable haircuts. The song title doesn’t even have anything to do with the lyrics, at least not directly, because it talks about the disappointment of the singer when he finds out that “she’s got a boyfriend anyway”.
On September 7th 2013, their debut album came out, produced by Mike Crossey, who also worked with Arctic Monkeys (another iconic alternative band), and Two Door Cinema Club; this did not revolutionize pop-rock music, since it contains the usual sounds we can find in every album of this genre, composed mostly of old reworked songs. For sure this album proves their ability to make music, and as instrumentalists we are drowned in the intense first song, The 1975, followed then by a sequence of drums in a really catchy popish rhythm in The City, that kind of reminds us of the first U2 songs (War, Boy, I Will Follow).
“The reason we couldn’t get signed by a major label in 2010 was the same reason we got big in 2013. They came to our rehearsal room and said ‘Well every song sounds different.’ And I was like ‘Yeah, that’s the point,'” Matty said in a recent interview.
In this record there are style passages that could confuse the listener, since there are rougher songs (The City, Sex), but also pop and catchier tracks such as their most famous single Chocolate, and Girls, which carries the listener with a really upbeat guitar riff and a simple but effective chorus. 80s influences are also present, in Heart Out, Pressure, and Settle Down, that are obviously the consequence of the members’ musical culture. Sounds that reminds us of Joy Division, Peter Gabriel, The Beatles, and even something of Kate Bush‘s backtracks, but nothing to do with the main path, that brings straight into M83‘s arms, or 1960s songs though which they sampled So Far (It’s Alright). There are synths and the electronic effects effects in M.O.N.E.Y and Menswear that demonstrate their producing abilities and their vast imagination.
Matty Healy said they couldn’t do anything other than music, because they put everything they have into their sounds. There are in fact also emotional, intense and personal tracks, in this record. Fallingforyou, Me, Robbers, and Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You, are valid examples. Delicate and sensitive themes are addressed in these songs, from love (in Fallingforyou), to suicidal thoughts and self-criticism (in Me), pure romantic imagination (in Robbers), and even apologies and excuses from the lead singer to his younger brother Louis (in Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You).
Matthew Healy reveals himself as a great lyricist, with culture and a deep knowledge of the English language.
“Oh I was thinking about killing myself, don’t you mind? I love you, don’t you mind?” This is the end of the chorus in Me, followed by a heart-breaking sax solo, that leaves us to think about our entire existence.
Mr. Healy, openly atheist, questions his beliefs in a really low and dark song, called Antichrist, where he addresses a divinity through daily life metaphors: “And I swear, there’s a ghost on this island, and his hands are covered in blood“, saying then that he loves “all too much“, and ending by talking about this ghost, probably his soul, whose tongue is covered in blood, with his hands as well, and it is “archaic and content” while he tries to wash them off.
Healy also talk about particular themes, such as drugs, in Milk, for instance, where he talks about cocaine addiction, “It won’t mend your heart if it’s only a couple of lines“. He is brave, because he went through drugs usage and all the consequences (even if this is not a justification), and he is able to talk about it with a certain light tone, which is not to be taken for granted. He realizes he is not a good role model, and he tries to make jokes about this. For this, he was heavily criticized, and perhaps it was a misstep, but “it is a juxtaposition of styles”, the singer says in his interviews, making hints about the differences between one song and another.
“It is a juxtaposition of styles.”
Not the most original record, but the lyrics are very admirable, and this rollercoaster of an album, that passes from itchy and catchy beats to terribly intimate melodies and sounds, is proof The 1975 still have a lot to say, “Why do you talk so loud?”, well, because Matty Healy and his bandmates have the courage to expose themselves like this and we also should need the courage to wait, to hear more.