The 1975 has been making music since 2002 and since then, their sound has passed through many phases. They have evolved through three unique eras, starting with the release of their self-titled album, “The 1975,” in 2013. Since then, they have released two albums and have a fourth on the way, set to be released later this May. Each album reflects an auditory and visual shift from the previous one.
The band consists of frontman Matthew (Matty) Healy, who typically sings lead vocals, Adam Hann, the lead guitarist, Ross MacDonald on the bass and George Daniel, the drummer. Formed in Cheshire, England, when the members were still teenagers in high school, the band went through a couple of names before settling on The 1975.
Before the album’s official release, the band released four previous EPs: “Facedown” in August 2012, “Sex” in November 2012, “Music for Cars” in March 2013 and finally “IV” in May 2013. All of the EP songs made it onto the self-titled record released in September 2013. The album consists of 16 songs while the deluxe version boasts 39 songs including remixes. The band’s unique sound found them much success. They began selling out shows before their full length album had even released and had been booked as opening acts for Bastille and The Neighborhood.
The album cover features a black and white photo of an LED screen with the band’s name, a mood that was quite fitting given its sound. Genre-wise, it’s a mix of indie pop, pop rock, electro-pop and pop punk, but even these categories are not enough to convey the sound to those unfamiliar with the band. The record is full of nostalgic ‘80s dance-rock influences that bring feelings of adventurous teen years you might have not even had. Tracks from the album could easily find themselves inside an ‘80s coming-of-age film without seeming out of place.
The record boasts upbeat guitar-heavy tracks like “Chocolate,” “Sex” and “Girls” but don’t let the groovy vibe of these songs distract from their powerful lyrics. Their songs center around real topics: relationships, drugs, alcohol, heartbreak and love, to name a few. “Chocolate” for example, tells the story of the band’s wide experimentation and eventual addictions to drugs like heroin.
The title of “Chocolate,” in fact, comes from a strain of marijuana referred to as chocolate thai. Healy describes the song as “It’s a love letter to boredom, limited opportunities of expressing yourself and embracing and understanding the make up of where you’re from.“ The song couples these lyrics with a catchy guitar hook and a clap-along beat that obscures its dark topic. The song’s music video, which is completely devoid of color, is fitting for the track.
The album also brings us more emotional tracks, like “Robbers.” This song tells the story of a toxic relationship. The title itself derives from two lovers who rob one another of the happiness they could have without the other. It’s apparent in lyrics like “I’ll give you one more time / We’ll give you one more fight” and “And when she’s leaving your home she’s begging you to stay, stay, stay, stay, stay” that the relationship is a dangerous cycle of ups and downs. Healy says the inspiration for the song came from the Quentin Tarantino film “True Romance” and real-life figures like Bonnie and Clyde. Its volatile lyrics are offset by a sexy heavy reverb and Healy’s emotional voice.
Their sophomore album from 2016, often shortened to just “I like it when you sleep,” rotated away from the unique style the band had become so known for — down to the sound, topics and even album cover. The album cover was essentially their debut, but in color — pink to be specific. To announce this shift in style, the band’s Twitter and Instagram accounts were deactivated in May 2015 causing speculation that the band had actually split up. Those rumors turned out to be false when the very next day their social media accounts were reinstated. Their Instagram feed shifted from consisting of only black and white photos to photos in color with pink tones. It was the beginning of a new era.
The 17-track album was released in February 2016, with promotional singles “Love Me” and “UGH!” being released in October and December of 2015 respectively. The album’s sound was one we had never seen from The 1975. It has been described as having synth-pop, new wave, pop punk, dance rock/pop and jazz elements among many others.
“Love Me” is the perfect introduction to how this era’s sound was different from the last. The single gave fans a taste of what more there was to come. When contrasted with their first album’s leading single, “Chocolate,” the differences are obvious. “Love Me” was characteristically punk rock with a funky guitar, groovy vocals and even experimentation with some sax. Healy told NME that it’s about a lack of self-awareness and narcissism in our generation. In contrast to “Chocolate,” this music video has no shortage of color and, in particular, is painted with hues of pinks and purple in almost every frame; eventually, color would become a staple of the band’s aesthetic.
A fan favorite off of the album is the synth-pop track “Somebody Else.” It’s appropriately titled as it centers the heartache one feels when they see an ex-lover move on with someone new. This track’s deeply personal and emotional lyrics are joined with a calm groovy guitar and Healy’s vulnerable yet comforting sound. Fans resonate with lyrics such as “I don’t want your body but I hate to think about you with somebody else” and “Our love has gone cold, you’re intertwining your soul with somebody else.” These lines capture the relatable emotion of having physically let go of your feelings for someone but still being affected by evidence that they’ve moved on.
The band’s third studio album again came with a shift in sound and aesthetic. In April 2018, a poster announcing the album’s name with some accompanying later (never released) lyrics was posted to their Instagram. Subsequent posts on their account were published making social commentaries on the consequences of modernity. The critiques related to museums, selfies, online dating, virtual reality and much more. This foreshadowed the political themes present in the album, which was eventually released in November 2018.
This album was a mix of the funky synth pop vibes of “I like it when you sleep” and the electro-pop and the indie pop of their first album. They also experimented with the addition of R&B sounds. The topics of their songs shifted. Songs now contained a more serious and political focus but the band found ways to position the themes in clever and light ways. One change from previous albums is the heavy use of autotune to add emphasis to Healy’s voice.
Unarguably, the most iconic song of the record is “Love It If We Made It.” The track blends electro-pop, new wave and pop elements with a strong drum beat and synths. Its lyrics allude to many social and cultural events.
Healy particularly takes a stand on American president Donald Trump with the lyrics: “’I moved on her like a bitch! / Excited to be indicted / Unrequited house with seven pools ‘Thank you Kanye, very cool!'”
The first line is a direct quote from Trump, one which Healy tells Pitchfork is his attempt at trying to challenge the norm. Here he argues that it’s ironic that because of that line the song will be censored yet he’s just quoting a political leader. The other lines refer to Trump’s possible impeachment, his wealth and a tweet he made after Kanye visited the White House. The song is also packed with other ideas revolving around topics like drug use, the refugee crisis, the U.S. prison system, immigration, fossil fuels and war.
However, perhaps the most powerful lyric in the song is “Modernity has failed us.” It is the overarching theme of the track. Healy feels as if the modern world we have inherited has ruined our relationships with our environment and each other. In many parts of the song, Healy is shouting the lyrics rather than singing them, drawing a parallel to Billy Joel’s 1989 track “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” which critiques prevailing social issues in the 1980s. The 1975 track is essentially this generation’s version of the iconic American protest song.
Notes on a Conditional Form (2020)
The band’s upcoming album was announced in July 2019 when they released the ambient self-titled song “The 1975” featuring a speech by climate activist Greta Thunberg. In August 2019, the promotional single “People” was released. “People” is like nothing we’ve heard from the band before. It’s more closely aligned to dance-punk, hardcore and industrial rock than any other genre the band has previously experimented with.
Since then, the band has released five more singles, notably “Frail State of Mind” and “Me & You Together Song.” “Frail State of Mind” has more soft rock and trip-hop vibes while the latter takes on more dream pop and shoegaze elements as well as some soft rock.
The album is set to be released on May 22 and while we have entered a new era for The 1975, with such variety in their singles, it’s hard to even pinpoint what to expect. The band has stated that “A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships” and “Notes on a Conditional Form” are both albums that couple into an era they name “Music for Cars,” an ode to their 2013 EP.
No band is quite like The 1975. Not only are they constantly evolving their sound and aesthetic but as they do so they’ve managed to harvest loyal fans who enjoy the constant evolutions. Retaining a following while pushing your sound in a different direction is something other artists often struggle with, but the band has managed to successfully please fans and critics alike every time. Maybe this comes down to the fact that while their sound may change, two very important things don’t: the band’s lyrical sophistication, and persistent use of heavy guitar even amid style changes. There is no telling what is truly next for the band but one thing we can expect is that they will continue to deliver good music.