The 1975 prove that Sincerity isn’t so Scary in the run-up to their 22-track album Notes on a Conditional Form – the second instalment in their self-titled ‘Music For Cars era’.
A UK band, and creators of their own independent label, Dirty Hit, The 1975 teased fans with another single, ahead of the release of their long-awaited 22-track album. ‘Guys’ is the latest addition to Notes on a Conditional Form (NOACF), due for release this Friday (22nd May).
No word better describes the band’s current sound, than ‘soft’, perhaps accompanied by the big puppy eyes emoji. Their latest single only validates this statement, foreshadowing what is to come from a band that so often steers away from the expected.
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A new approach to lyricism inevitably comes as the band’s polarising frontman, Matty Healy, grows older. In conversation with Zane Lowe on Beats 1 ahead of the release of ‘Guys’, Healy expressed his newfound desire to be more directly sentimental. This new release, he says, is the “antidote” to the irony that underpins much of the band’s extensive back-catalogue, which Healy admitted “can be quite exhausting” to maintain.
The many levels of irony upon which the band is built, gradually started to dismantle with the release of 2018’s A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships (ABIIOR). This album sought to lay out the foundations for a deconstructed version of The 1975, with the post-punk brit- and synth-pop infused Grammy Nominated lead single, ‘Give Yourself A Try’ that samples the guitar riff of Joy Division’s ‘Disorder’. Not forgetting politically charged stand-out tracks such as ‘I Like America and America Likes Me’ and ‘Love It If We Made It’ which, when coupled together, single-handedly epitomise the politics of a postmodern world and a postmodern America, quoting President Trump – “I moved on her like a bitch!” and “Thank you Kanye, very cool” – Healy boldly declares ‘MODERNITY HAS FAILED US!” The band finds ease in venturing the thin ice of politics, whilst still honouring their trade-mark introspection, on tracks such as the Radiohead-OK-Computer-Esque guitar ballad ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’. Their honesty is perhaps the reason why The 1975 has become one of the biggest, most influential bands of our generation.
On ‘Guys’, Healy further experiments with a dreamy guitar-soft vocal pairing, similar to the type seen in ‘Me and You Together Song’. The track is an endearing ode to the long-lasting friendship of The 1975. Something that we wouldn’t expect from the frontman of the band a few years ago, who’s often been found guilty of self-indulgent, hyper-introspective lyricism. Healy said upon the release of this track (which debuted on the band’s February 2020 UK Arena Tour) that he “wanted people to have a song that’s like a love song for their mates”. The lyric “I hear a song and start to cry / Pretend its smoke that’s in my eye” is exactly how I felt as I listened to this song a few hours after its release, on my daily, Boris-approved evening walk. I wandered by the river in my rural home market town, where the streets are drenched in the nostalgic memories of youthful, care-free friendships that I am forced to remember, like The 1975 detail in ‘Guys’.
We’ve received a new single almost every month since the release of the first track from NOACF, ‘The 1975’, some 10 months ago. The track was released on the hottest day ever recorded in the UK, perfectly reflecting its main theme and opening lyric – ‘We are right now, in the beginning of a climate and ecological crisis’. NOACF‘s introductory track saw the band leave behind their tradition of a recurring introduction as the opener for each of their previous 3 albums, only reworking the melody and production each time in order to match the aesthetic of a new project. The band also shattered the expectations of what a lead single should be, by teaming up with environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Their diverse array of singles form a plethora of variety which we have never seen before with any other band. The 1975 are a band known for somehow having no uniform sound but who still manage to make any one of their tracks instantly recognisable to even the most casual listener. Perhaps then, this will be their most The 1975-sounding album to date.
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The brutally honest, country-inspired, ‘Jesus Christ God Bless America 2005’, is a heart-clutching depiction of coming to terms with homosexual tendencies and features the haunting (yet, uncredited) addition of a vocal from the highly-celebrated singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers. She sings, without any shame or remorse:
“I’m in love with the girl next door / Her name is Claire / Nice when she comes around to call / and masturbate the second she’s not there”
I found this truly refreshing.
Other unashamed displays of raw, unembellished honesty can be found throughout the 8 tracks released in the long run-up to the 22-track collection. One of the lyrics that particularly stands out for me is “We went to Winter Wonderland and it was shit but we were happy”, on the dream-jangle-pop inspired ‘Me and You Together Song’. A nostalgic display of vulnerability with soft, layered falsetto vocals, over Oasis-Esque guitar as the band goes back to their Drive Like I Do roots.
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The 1975 are once again moving away from the norms of an idealized pop song where we all too often have to endure the clichés of a failed romance. It is now time for a new direction of honest pop. If we are entering an era where sincerity is not [ and should not be ] so scary, I can think of no other band I would rather see lead the way. If the tracks that have been released in the year-long run-up are any indication of the form that the delayed fourth instalment from The 1975 may take, then we must brace ourselves for a great emo record, from a band that has independently soundtracked the youth of so many of us. The 1975 have succeeded in defining an entire youth subculture.