IN THIS PHOTO: Greta Thunberg and Matty Healty/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/The 1975
The track, The 1975, is available via:
25th July, 2019
IT might be a bit unfair to claim that…
PHOTO CREDIT: Anders Hellberg
this new track from The 1975 is entirely the work of The 1975. Although it is called The 1975, it is an essay/speech read out by environmental activist, Greta Thunberg. She is the central aspect of the song but, before I get there, I want to talk about bands that expand and grow hugely over time; why environmental issues are at the fore right now and we should be taking more notice; how bands like The 1975 are going to inspire others to talk about big themes in their music; role models and artists that we should be looking up to; a bit about Pop and how some are helping to redefine it – I will end by stating where The 1975 are heading and what lies in their future. Let’s start by talking about The 1975 as this act who have really blown up through the years. I remember when they released their eponymous debut back in 2013 and how different it sounds to what they are producing now. The band consist lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Matthew ‘Matty’ Healy, lead guitarist Adam Hann; bassist Ross MacDonald and drummer George Daniel. They have come an awful long way in a few years but I do like how they started. Maybe their self-titled album was not as ambitious and original as the work they are producing now but there were some hits and memorable numbers on the debut – no less Chocolate and Sex. They sort of upped their game by 2016’s I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It and, whilst that titled annoyed many people (it is a bit stupid!), it was another evolution for a band becoming more confident and experimental. I think The 1975 really developed their sound and became a lot more ambitious as time went on. Maybe few would have expected them to survive after their debut but, lo and behold, they continued on and last year’s A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships is their finest work. It has just been nominated for a Mercury Prize and many are tipping it to win.
PHOTO CREDIT: Louise Haywood-Schiefer
This is a group who have come a very long way since the start of their careers and they seem to be growing stronger by the release. Listen to A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships and it is a very different beast to The 1975. They are less reliant on pure love songs or straight numbers that have great hooks and make you sing along. They are introducing new sounds and formats; stretching what an album can be and are becoming more socially conscious and bold as they go along. That will lead me to their latest song but one only needs to listen to what they have released recently to see The 1975 are one of the biggest bands in the world. This is a time when solo artists are dominating so it is nice to see bands like The 1975 around. I would hate the music industry to become too reliant on solo artists and, as there is not the same level of Rock bands as we had years ago, maybe it is harder for bands to succeed. The 1975 are leading the way and are proving what can be achieved; how bands do not need to sound the same and I do think we will see a lot of new bands form that are inspired by The 1975. I wonder how far The 1975 can go because, very soon, they are bringing out their album, Notes on a Conditional Form. In fact, I think the album is coming out next year but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it pushed forward, given the momentum they have created. I am not sure what their upcoming album will revolve around but, if it is anything like A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships, then it is going to be a smash – that album was one of the best-rated of last year. Touring and adulation on the road has helped when it comes to The 1975 growing and expanding their horizons but I think they are looking around them and writing the types of songs we need to hear right now.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/The 1975
That brings me to the environment and other subjects that are not necessarily documented in music all that much. I know artists like ANONHI (4 Degrees) have talked about the changing climate and how serious it is but, largely, the mainstream still consists of artists talking about themselves. What this year’s list of Mercury-nominated artists shows is that we have some great British acts that are getting urgent and starting to talk about what matters. From Grime and Hip-Hop albums that investigate modern Britain and the realities of the street to artists tackling toxic relationships and gender imbalance, it is great to see something serious being injected into music. I know this is not new but I still feel like there is too much personal heartache and commercial sounds at the forefront. Given the fact the world is changing and the environment is under threat, I do think artists have a responsibility to talk about it and open eyes. I doubt there are many of us who want to experience too many days like we have done recently – especially the heat of Thursday! It was really unbearable and it is quite worrying to realise that this sort of heat will become more common. The problems with the environment are manmade and we need to do all we can to try and reverse climate change. Maybe it will be impossible to undo all the damage but it is imperative that we do all we can. It might be a bit scary talking about environmental changes in music and hard to articulate something moving but I feel more artists need to try. The 1975 are one of these bands who are not shying away from the big subjects and want people to react and take action. I do feel, as climate change takes hold, musicians have a very important part to play. I am not suggesting they can lead to revolution and solve all the problems around but I do not think the Government are doing enough.
If the Mercury shortlist shows anything it is that the best music at the moment strays away from the strictly personal and has a political edge. I do love artists that discuss their own lives but, as the world becomes more divided and there are so many problems around, artists are leading the way and doing what politicians should be doing. The 1975 are a fantastic band and, no doubt, will inspire people to make changes. The money raised for their new single is going to Extinction Rebellion – an environmental charity – and I do hope that our current Government are moved to take action and introduce measures…although that might be a bit of a stretch! Music is fine as it is right now but how many tracks open your eyes, move you and actually make you think?! There are not that many, I bet, and I do think that artists around the world need to start talking about big subjects. Many do already but I think we need a lot more recruitment and a louder voice. I am not surprised The 1975 have brought out this song that puts Greta Thunberg at the front because she is someone who is inspiring many. Only sixteen, she is an activist who is making speeches and calling for change. The 1975’s new track is less a traditional song and more Spoken Word; Thunberg delivering this impassioned and striking speech that calls for action and revolution. Some have claimed the messages are quite irresponsible and will provoke violence but it is clear what she is saying: we are being let down and the planet is in real danger at the moment. If we let things carry on as they are, it will mean extreme heat will be the norm and future generations will suffer. I am a bit worried how things will work out and what state the planet will be in (in) about twenty years. We all need to take action because we are reaching a point of no return – somewhere we do not want to be at all!
PHOTO CREDIT: Jordan Hughes
I want to bring in a couple of interviews The 1975 gave last year when promoting A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships. I do not think there are many bands out there at the moment you can call iconic or role models. I feel The 1975 transcend mere band status and have a much bigger role to play. Matty Healy, especially, is someone who speaks out against gender inequality and wants balance; he is concerned about the planet and wants to see changes there. So many musicians remain quiet because they fear the label will object or fans will turn away but music’s huge platform is not necessarily being exploited by popular artists. More and more, issues big and small are cropping up and I do think musicians have a duty to bring them up in their work. In this interview with DIY, Healy talks about how tough it is being a human and the fears he has:
“Instead, ‘A Brief Enquiry…’ looks set to beat with a far more human and fallible heart than these early technology-infatuated movements might suggest. Of course, there’s an overly complex explanation about the renouncing of his previous postmodern songwriting tendencies (“always referencing myself, always referencing another song”) to explain it all, but really it boils down to a far simpler point: “Everything is so ironic because the idea of sentiment is more difficult to deal with. Being human is more difficult than being ironic.”
At a time where society is more politically polarised than ever, and a fear of being publicly burned on social media has the world treading on fearful eggshells, The 1975 want to tap into the real, human feeling at the centre of it all. “You look at the Right, and the Right has got Nazis in it, so we put that in a box and we know that’s not a good place to go. And then you look at the Left and you’ve got this whole group of people who just won’t stand for any nuance.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/The 1975
So everyone’s scared. I’m scared. I think that people are scared to feel, and they don’t know what to say. So I think that going deeper is where this record’s come from,” Matty explains. Later in our conversation, these fears manifest themselves in a way that’s echoed by many conscientious males in the public eye right now. “Let me ask your opinion on something,” he cuts in. “I can be quite tactile, so am I deluded or paranoid to think, would it be good for me to always have a chaperone in interviews if the journalist is female?” he questions. “I’m worried about being myself and just chatting. I know that women are made to feel uncomfortable by men, so is it my moral duty to say, would you like another person around? Or does that make me seem guilty? I’m not a bigot, and I’m not a racist and I’m not sexist, but what if there was some ridiculous scandal that was not true but managed to really discredit me?”
There are very few leads who are as open and revealing in interviews and, whilst someone like Matty Healy is quite accessible, there is also something pretty amazing about him. He is a bit of a role model but his path has not always been clear and straight. Healy has had to overcome problems and challenges but, as he explained to GQ, excess and addiction is not a good path – almost eschewing the traditional mantras or Rock bands and that idea life:
“He starts to tick them off, “Sex, drugs, done all of them, that’s not a path to salvation. Not that I don’t have a good sex life, not that we need to get personal about it, but art, drugs, sex, religion... Religion, unfortunately, [is] not an option, especially if you live in England. They’re all just forms of losing yourself and I think I see that at shows, kids having that moment of freedom. That’s one of the only times I feel really free, when I’m on stage, not because people are looking at me, but because I’m fulfilling my purpose.” He adds, “I’ve learned more from artists who signpost toward utopian ideals as opposed to politicians and leaders that actually try and create them and fuck them up. Artists have taught me way more than anyone else really”.
PHOTO CREDIT: Jordan Hughes
Healy is a cleaner and more focused artist than he once was and many people should be looking up to him, I think. There are too many artists around with very little to say but The 1975 are almost like their own political party. They can craft music that is catchy and radio-primed but there are deeper messages and important themes being tackled throughout. In many ways, The 1975 are part of a movement who are redefining Pop and what it stands for. Even though there is a lot of commercial Pop flying about still, The 1975 are showing what direction it should be moving in. They are discussing themes around sex, politics and social issues but are pairing that with compositions and vocals that stick in the heart and has a lighter touch. Other artists like Billie Eilish are also taking Pop in new directions and it is pleasing to see innovators around who are not just following everyone else. I know other bands are compelled by The 1975 so it will not be too long until we see them make their way to the mainstream. Music is in a good state I think but there is still an absence of the biggest artists using their voice to actually talk about stuff that matters: still, there is this reliance on the commercial and personal. It is a bit sad to see but I guess it will be hard to override that. As we are made more aware of problems around climate change and the environment, I feel musicians will react and we will hear more songs that call for action and change. I shall move on in a second but I am glad The 1975 are riding high right now and delivering these very stirring and inspiring songs. I should probably stop with the gabbing and actually get down to reviewing The 1975’s eponymous track.
PHOTO CREDIT: Michael Campanella
The opening of The 1975 is soft piano and something quite tender. We hear a couple of voices (one of them belonging to Greta Thunberg) chatting and there is this delicate and tender piano line. It never really gets to the forefront but brilliantly scores Thunberg who comes to the microphone and, with a serious tone, she talks about what we are experiencing right now. Rather than get angry and fire the words out, there is this stern feeling but she never shouts or forces the issue. Instead, Thunberg talks about how we are living in an environmental crisis and we cannot hide from it. Many governments around the world are not calling it what it is and we need to start accepting that there is a huge problem that we need to face and rectify. We do not have all the solutions yet unless, as Thunberg says, we simply do nothing. It seems that there is this general apathy and inactivity that means the world is being destroyed needlessly. Nobody can ignore the facts and harsh truth and so, with that in mind, what are we to do? Thunberg states that the “older generations have failed” and this current climate battle is one we are losing. These words seem quite haunting and perilous but, rather than scare and put you off, they are designed to make you think and inspire. I do like the fact the composition is very much at the back and the attention is on the voice. Some artists, if they tried a song like this, would have electronics and all manner of sounds getting in the way. Thunberg outlines how political movements are failing but we as humans have not yet failed – and we can still turn this around if we want to. We need to recognise the failings of our systems and, if we do not do that, then we stand no chance. This sort of disaster has not befalling the world and we have seen nothing like this before. Now is the time to speak clearly and not be polite about things.
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images
Thunberg recognises that this is a huge issue but we need to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases; it is a simple fix but so many of us are passive and ignorant. Maybe the track is not providing information we did not already know but, in this context, it sounds much more powerful and moving than it ever has. So many people are talking about the danger of emissions and the fact that nothing is being done to cut that down. One of the most emphasised and memorable parts of the song is the nature of black-and-white. Thunberg says that we are told nothing in black or white but, in the case of the planet and whether we continue, it very much is – we can either choose to go on or not. There are no grey areas regarding survival and the preservation of the planet and we can take transformational action to safeguard the world for future generations. Coming from the mouth of a teen, these words sound more moving and emotional than, say, an older person. It is almost like we have this girl who is fearful she will not live long enough to see old age because of the climate crisis. It gives The 1975 this very sad edge but, rather than drag the listener down, Thunberg is building us up and saying that we can make changes. Rather than sit around and accept that things are lost, we all can make that change and help keep this planet safe. Strings stir and build in the background and there is this symphonic quality to the track. Thunberg knows that individual change alone cannot redress the balance and reverse the damage done. There needs to be this systemic and widespread movement that pledges action and brings in laws. Cutting down on emissions and making sure we reduce pollution is key. Thunberg wants us to wake up and make the changes required because we can all do it and we have that power inside us.
PHOTO CREDIT: Penguin
It might only be small changes – using public transport more and being more conscious of our environmental impact – but it needs to start now. There is clear emotion in her voice as the tracks nears the end. It might seem impossible but the facts are before us and we cannot ignore them. We are using so much oil and that alone is creating a huge impact. If we can recognise where the problems are starting and the main causes of climate change then we know what to do; how to make those changes so that we can start to make a difference. The final lines of the song are the most effecting. When it comes to keeping that oil in the ground, there are no rules and polices. Governments and big companies can do what they want and, because of that, greater intensity needs to happen; this is a moment to revolt and take to the streets. In the rather calm context, that sentiment hits you and it seems very extreme. Many will debate whether street-level protest can achieve that much but Thunberg is advocating something more extreme: it is time to rebel and create civil disobedience. The song ends there and you have to sit back and think. We need to take action today and, really, is the best way to see fast improvement and betterment hitting the streets and creating unrest?! It seems like all other methods have failed and maybe we have left it too long – revolution is the only solution to the problems we have caused. The 1975, with Thunberg, have created a track that will affect many people and let’s hope that there are people in power who have heard it and will be compelled to act. I do think we are in a situation where we cannot afford to wait and we do need to think about the next step. Whether it is making huge personal changes or civil disobedience, The 1975 is a song that you will not forget in a hurry.
The 1975 have been shortlisted for a Mercury for A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships and they must rank as one of the favourites right now. Others are tipping Dave, Little Simz and Anna Calvi for their albums but I do think The 1975 have a lot of momentum at the moment. Make sure you follow them on social media to see where they are heading but the next few months are going to be very busy for them. Not only do they have to prepare for the Mercury Prize ceremony in September but their album, Notes on a Conditional Form, is coming along. There are touring demands and it is going to be pretty hectic for a little while. I do hope they get time to chill and relax at some point because they have been pretty full-on for a while now. They are, debatably, one of the biggest bands in the world and they seem to be on their own level. I still look back to where they came from and how much they have developed since their debut. They almost sound like a different bands and it is quite amazing matching their debut album to their latest. Maybe it is just a natural evolution but The 1975 of today are far more essential and urgent than the band of the past. They are on top form and you can never predict what they will come out with next. A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships is an album very much of this time. Tackling some big issues and deeper subjects, bands like The 1975 show that you can mix the thought-provoking and serious with something more fun and catchy. The 1975’s new track will turn many heads and it will inspire some younger listeners. I do not think our current Government are truly aware of climate change and how serious things are now. I doubt they will take action and get involved like they should so, really, is it down to musicians to take their place?! That seems quite sad and alarming but I do know the likes of The 1975 and Greta Thunberg will compel many people out there to speak out and demand change. I shall end things here but it has been an unusual and great experience reviewing a track that is less musical as it is a stirring speech. I do not get to do that often so, when the opportunity arises, I am always keen. The 1975 is a song that will stun everyone and Thunberg really delivers this evocative and powerful statement. It makes me wonder whether other songs on Notes on a Conditional Form will be as original and bold but, as a potential first taster, it is stunning indeed. A track that gets into the head and stirs the blood, it is yet another arresting cut from…
ONE of the biggest bands around.
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PHOTO CREDIT: Jordan Hughes
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