“It’s not about reciprocation, it’s just all about me. A sycophantic, prophetic, Socratic junkie wannabe.”
– The Sound
“Forget my brain, remember my pain.”
– The Ballad of Me and My Brain
In my experience with music I tend to either view it as something completely separate from its artist, or I become so obsessed with the artists that it becomes impossible to discuss one without discussing the other. Normally I am able to appreciate the interplay of music and lyrics without applying any greater meaning to them informed by my knowledge of the artist. However, whenever artists whose careers I follow closely, artist where I care about the people as much as their product, release a new song, I spend a lot of time trying to ‘figure out’ what it’s about and how it reflects on the artist in question. I have not been able to decide which way is the better way to enjoy music. I definitely feel a deeper connection to music that I can apply directly to a situation or a person, but there’s something to be said for lyrics that are just evocative for what they are: words strung together to music.
What I’m trying to say is that the 1975 is one of a handful of artists that fall somewhere in the middle of these two categorie. When I first heard about them I was not immediately interested, and it wasn’t until I knew a bit more about them that I was able to fully appreciate their music. That appreciation grew into full blown obsession, which resulted in a strange ambivalent admiration of Matty Healy. Since then I have had my ups and downs with Matty because he is a hard man to love sometimes. His tendency to pore his heart out and lay himself bare in both his lyrics and in interviews is both fascinating and infuriating when this leads to over sharing and speaking about thing that are better left unsaid. Exacerbating this is the shift in fandom where everyone is either a ‘perfect cinnamon roll’ or a ‘problematic fave’. I will freely admit that my perception of Matty Healy has been moulded and coloured by time spent on Tumblr, and as such I have seen countless arguments both for and against him. I’m not here to write about why I feel the need to not address the things I love for fear of having to justify myself on social media, but it’s important to note in order to understand why I find it hard to discuss the 1975 now. Because you can’t discuss their lyrics without also discussing Matty.
Like I said, after a rocky start I eventually fell in love with The 1975. Their self titled debut album was among my most played in 2014, and Heart Out is still among my most played songs on iTunes. I was able to go see them in September 2014 at Alexandra Palace and, with the risk of sounding hyperbolic, it was one of the best concert experiences of my life. The interplay between the lights, the instrumentals and the vocals created a concert atmosphere I don’t usually feel when I’m watching live music.
Listening to I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It – which is a mouthful – has been a journey for me. When the title was released I was a bit put off; if I’m being honest it sounded pretentious and way too long. I still think that, but in a weird way it does fit the sound of the album. Love Me was unexpected, but an earworm that crawled inside and just would not leave. Ugh! got to me immediately and I started to feel as if this album might live up to its predecessor after all. The Sound supported that and lastly Somebody Else hammered it home for me. So you’d think buying the album was a no-brainer right? Not really. I still had mental hang-ups about the band (and I still do, but at this point I’ve accepted that that’s just how it’s going to be), and somehow they kept me from seeking it out a quickly as I had intended. I finally sat down and listened to the whole album in full last Thursday, and thankfully I love it.
I have always loved how they sound so British. The way the vocal profession is never quite what I expect it to be after only hearing the melody. I like the speak-singing of Loving Someone, even if I’m a bit on the fence about some of the lyrical content in that song. I love the use of backing vocals in If I Believe You reminiscent of a gospel choir, and I like that the occasional chord progression and piece of lyric is extremely reminiscent of their first album without feeling just like poor lazy copies.
The songs are honest, messy, mean, melancholy, sometimes a bit pretentious, but also clever. A lot of the time they sound like pieces of conversation, switching perspectives between an ‘I’ and a ‘you’ and a ‘she’ without any clear indication as to why. The songs are probably most critical of Matty himself, and at times incredibly dark and emotionally draining to listen to, other times self depreciatingly funny. He takes himself to task along with everyone else he sings about, evening the playing field. I relate a lot to 1975’s music, in ways that are hard to justify when the song material is about things I have little to no experience with. I guess I’m prone to melancholy every now and then, and that feeling of displacement that I find in their lyrics is something I can relate to even if mine isn’t the same. But because the songs are not happy – and some of them are downright depressing – relating to the music can sometime make the listening experience quite taxing. If I Believe You and She Lays Down were difficult to listen to, as was the last lines of Nana.
It’s the uncensored frankness in The 1975’s writing that gets to me, the way it feels raw and doesn’t paint the world rose coloured. I may still have my reservations, but the things I enjoy about this band outweigh the things I don’t, and so far I’m buying what their selling.
Favourite tracks: She’s American, The Sound, Ugh!