It’s not supposed to be freezing in May, yet there we were, the four of us huddled together sipping hot chocolate in the back of The Mann Center. By the time the sun had set, the lights on stage went out. Go Down: Soft Sound. The intro crescendos and then into beautiful silence. For a moment, everything stops. Guitarist Adam Hahn’s plucky Peter Gabriel-esque guitar breaks open the venue, and pink neons light up the sky. And as the music played on, we danced to stay warm; we danced because we were falling in love. This is The 1975.
My love for The 1975 didn’t begin with self-titled, nor was my iPod littered with Drive Like I Do tracks. Instead, it started on a weeknight, Rachel and I sitting in front of the television in our dark apartment. Only the glow of color from UGH! bounced across our ceiling as lead singer Matt Healy’s mesmerizing tale of addiction echoed through our speaker. The 1975 were everything I wanted and everything I needed right there.
The 1975 are Rachel and I’s band: at one point, we thought about “The Sound” or “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” as our wedding song. The 1975 have been my most played Spotify band three years straight. And so much of my admiration for the group is because of their quintessential second album, I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It. There are few perfect albums in this world: this is one of them.
5 Shitty Bands
“We were about five s**tty bands with five s**itty names,” Healy told Spin in a 2016 interview when discussing the band’s origins. And maybe Healy was right? There was Slowdown, and Big Sleep and Drive Like I Do all before The 1975’s first self-titled album was released. And the opinions on the record were less than pleasant.
Pitchfork said, “For such a pop-oriented band, The 1975’s songwriting has turned out remarkably stiff, cloistered, and unimaginative.”
Rolling Stone’s scathing review simply says, “The 1975 could use some enunciation lessons and an editor: Their debut, a Top 40 hit in America, is a long, often inscrutable set that rifles through synth-rock references like Neon Trees doing a poor M83 impression.”
And, well, NME awarded the band in 2014 their Worst Band of the Year Award. Needless to say, mainstream music magazines weren’t fans.
George Daniel, the drummer of The 1975, told Spin Magazine, “The critics were very confused about us around the first record. And they accused us of being confused sometimes… like, ‘This band doesn’t know what they want to be.’ We do, we just want to be different things, because that’s a generational way of creating music… that’s the way that we consume it, so that’s also the way that we like to create it.”
Compared to their later releases, The 1975 plays it safe. Tracks like “The City,” “Settle Down,” and “Sex” feels like pop-perfection bouncing between pulsating drum beats and Healy’s self-aware lyrics. One of the band’s most popular tracks, “Chocolate,” would fit in most 90’s music playlists: probably the catchiest song about marijuana ever created. But while there are tracks that feel repetitive and cliche, The 1975 also features songs such as “Heart Out,” which touches upon their 80’s influences and just begins to show off the range that the band is capable of. The 1975 suffers from inconsistency and the growing pains of a band’s first album. But listening to The 1975’s other releases afterward, you notice how the self-titled album fits perfectly with the history of the band. The status quo and success provides two options for musicians: stay the course, or attempt artistry. The 1975 chose the latter.
The 1975’s self-titled debut wasn’t a success amongst their critics, but something about the band resonated with fans back home in England, and listeners over the pond. The album topped the charts in 2013 and has sold close to a million copies between the U.K. and America. Tour dates were selling out, and the band seemed to be on the rise.
Then they went dark.
More music and drama.
In October, The 1975’s social media returned with a letter revealing they’ve been working on the follow-up to their self-titled album, I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It. Healy said of the album title in a video interview with NME, “[the] album title is very representative of what the album’s like, it’s quite bold and unafraid to be sentimental and dramatic and overly romantic. Not overly romantic, aware I suppose it’s just a bit idealistic and it kind of captures the narrative of our psyche over the past year and a half.”
Speaking with Billboard, Healy said, “The first time around, you’re making a record, and that’s it. I was writing about my life. [On the new album], there is this resignation and wisdom — I’m not calling myself wise, but I am wise with my own experiences — and that knowing has replaced the hope of the first record. It sounds emo and depressing to talk about. On the first record it was me looking at my life and looking for ways to change who I am to be more happy. This record is more about self-acceptance and understanding you’ll always be looking at those things.”
In an interview with The Aquarian, Healy said of recording the album: “Thinking of my preconceptions of how people would perceive it, that was a thing that we had to get away from. The one thing that we had to avoid, or the one thing that we did avoid, is when we realized that the only chance to make a record we were really, really proud of that we really wanted to make, was to forget about all of those things and just going back to the purity of making music and the reason we started doing it: because we love actually making music and not for other reasons.” The band wasn’t comfortable riding off the success of their self-titled and had no intention of making “Sex Pt. 2.” Instead The 1975 sought out to create the art they wanted to create: a 75 minute tour-de-force of music that moves between genres and influences effortlessly. From 80’s synth-pop to Peter Gabriel-esque rock jams, I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It is one of those albums that capture your attention and refuses to let go until it ends.
Giving proper context.
When asked in an interview about the oldest song on I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It, Healy replied, “‘The Sound’ is the oldest song on the record. ‘The Sound’ didn’t make the first album…I had the bridge and chorus for ‘The Sound,” and like I spoke about the fear you know because it’s almost like a boy band song. We didn’t have the confidence on the first album to pull it off. It was just too much, so we left it and this album really gave it its context because it was surrounded by “Lostmyhead” and all these kind moments that made it stand out more.” And Healy is right, “The Sound” wouldn’t have fit in on their self-titled debut, but it’s an absolute necessity for The 1975’s sophomore effort.
According to quotes given to Spotify in their album experiences, the band states, “I really wanted each of our albums to be a distillation of the one that preceded.” Every track seemingly inspired by D’Angelo, Sigur Ros, and countless others, the beauty of I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It is how each track is transformative and memorable in their own way. When Healy talks about moments, the album provides music that is malleable to your mood.
As for “The Sound”, it might be the poppiest song The 1975 have ever written. Leading in with a chorus, the track picks up intensity as Healy’s vocals sing out, “I know when you’re around cause I know the sound, I know the sound of your heart.” Self-aware as ever, the lyrics are catchy and make for a great live sing-a-long. But if you’ve ever seen the band live, there’s a moment where “The Sound” slows a bit…then builds…and builds…until releasing into a tidal wave of fans jumping all at once. It’s no wonder that “The Sound” is one of the band’s favorite songs to play live.
An exciting creative bender.
Healy told NME, who gave I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It album of the year honors, “We wanted it to feel very cinematic and it is almost the length of a film. We got to the point where we were told it wouldn’t fit on a CD if we carried on. It was just this really exciting creative bender, and the more ridiculous it got, the more subversive it got. But there’s f**k all wrong with the album. Nothing. It’s perfect for me. I could spend another two years on it and maybe make it three percent better.” And as a fan, I can’t help but agree with his use of the word perfection. Few albums resonate while growing up with the listener as they age. In terms of their evolution as a band, well, it’s also an age thing.
I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It opens with their infamous self-titled instrumental track that features the same lyrics as its predecessor and the band’s follow-up, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships. The atmospheric opener transitions into layered vocals as the bass hums along the bottom of the song. From there, it’s a 75 minute roller-coaster of moment after moment.
Take for example the band’s first single off the album, the Peter Gabriel/David Bowie inspired “Love Me.” A funky guitar sets up the groove but also lets listener’s know that whatever you were expecting, isn’t going to be here.
Later on in the album comes “If I Believe You,” Inspired by Kanye West, this melodic, hip-hop song about religion is one of the most potent live songs on the album. With every heart-beat drum kick, the entire stage floods with blinding white light, silhoelleting Healy’s body on stage. “‘If I Believe You’ is about envying the faithful. I envy the simplicity religion brings to the most complex questions out there.”
But my favorite track on the album has to be “She’s American.” While everyone was hyped up on “The Sound,” fans of The 1975 heard rumblings of a super-catchy track on the Chorus.Fm forums. After the album dropped, it immediately became a fan favorite as it’s one of those poppy songs you can’t get out of your head. The band described it as “If I picture myself as a kid in the 90’s and imagine the sound of California, this is that sound,” the band said when describing “She’s American.”
Plus, the song has my favorite lyric of all-time: “Don’t fall in love with the moment and think you’re in love with the girl.”
Healy’s heartbreaking chorus right after some distortion leads to some of the relatable lyrics on I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It. The band agrees as they told Spotify, “‘Somebody Else’ is my purest songwriting experience. It was so easy and simple to write.” But the highlight of this track comes three and a half minutes into the track as a deeper voiced Healy sings “Get someone you love, get someone you need,” until he’s interrupted by himself singing “Fuck That Get Money!” crescendoing into a collision of the last chorus of the song with every instrument hitting perfectly at the same time.
Other songs like “Lostmyhead” slow things down. The song, clocking in over five minutes, features a grungy guitar line mumbles in the background as Healy softly croons about his mental health’s deterioration.
What makes this album so special is that over the course of 75 minutes, every song sounds (and feels different).
A critical success.
Unlike the response to The 1975, the band’s follow up album received mostly positive reactions from critics. Pitchfork wrote in their review, “Perhaps their greatest tribute is that the 1975, despite being in their mid-twenties, are just like them: messy, earnest, vulnerable, unedited, gaudy. For Britain’s biggest young guitar band to ditch laddy machismo, embrace the boy band ideal, and run on feeling rather than posturing—that feels kind of radical.” In 2019, I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It was listed at number 161 on Pitchfork’s Album of the Decade list.
Spin said, “But faulting Healy and his cohorts for having too many impulses in different directions misses the point of I like it when you sleep… entirely, turning what makes it so exceptional into a pejorative. These songs have strong, familiar features, but they build off of one another; every one of them is full of hyperactive, bats**t detail that makes it immediately attributable to this band alone.”
NME even gave I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It their 2016 Album of the Year award, not even three years after declaring them the worst band in the world. It was a remarkable follow-up to The 1975.
I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It became The 1975’s first album to reach number one on the Billboard music charts and was certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.
What’s next for The 1975?
In November of 2018, The 1975 released their third album, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships. The pendulum continued to swing towards critical appreciation as Pitchfork scored it an 8.5 and named it “Best New Music.” A Brief Inquiry stylistically kept with the patterns found on I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It, which means that the band continued to make the music they wanted to make no matter the expectations. Tracks like the super-poppy “TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME” lie near the Talking Heads inspired “It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)” in perfect harmony.
Before the album was released, Healy talked a lot about their third album being The 1975’s swan song. “I kind of got obsessed with our third album being our last because I’d become obsessed with that idea narratively and as a writer. What you always want is a great ending.” But during the recording process, he recognized, “But, then when it came to doing that, I’d just shit myself because I realized, this is the reason that I get out of bed every morning. I don’t want to stop at 29: I want to tour for the next two years, and I want to make new records. I think the only way to do that now is do two albums [at once].”
Which leads us to here: on May 22nd, The 1975 will release the highly awaited Notes on a Conditional Form. Suffering from delays and, of course, a damn pandemic, the album’s hype has continued to grow with the release of each new single.
But no matter how good A Brief Inquiry is, there will always be something special to me about I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It. It’s one of those albums that came out at the right when my musical palette began to take shape; I fell back in love with pop music again. Or maybe it’s because I remember sitting in front of the television, the living room glowing in a pink hue, sitting next to Rachel listening to UGH! for the first time? The album is nostalgic, poignant, and marked a significant change in not only The 1975’s future but mine as well.
I always tell my wife that I think this album is perfect, but maybe Healy describes it better. “It’s art. The world needs this album.” So turn down the lights, pull up your favorite music player, and let’s step into the pink light of pop’s greatest album of the 2000’s to explore I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It.
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