It’s safe to say that The 1975 has seen some pretty big success in the last three years. With the release of their self-titled debut in 2013, the Manchester quartet skyrocketed to stardom, playing sold-out shows all across the world on a ridiculously long two-year tour to promote the album. Made up of guitarist Adam Hann, drummer George Daniel and drummer Ross MacDonald, and the charismatic and often outspoken group leader Matthew “Matty” Healy on vocals and guitar, The 1975 is, for all intents and purposes, a boy band.
Having seen two of their live shows, I can personally attest to the ferocity and near-hysteric fan base of mostly teenage girls dressed in all black, swaying religiously to Matty’s melodic Manchester accent. Their self-titled debut also often hinted at this boy band mentality, with upbeat pop gems like “Girls” and “Heart Out” that mold themselves after the ’80s glam rock the band often so desperately tries to emulate. Their first album seemed to be a foray into the formation of an identity, with the band taking twists and turns and not really knowing what it wanted to be or what it wanted to say. This changes in I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It.
Aside from its exhaustive title, the album demands to be felt, and the band seems to have finally found their footing and have dug deep to produce something cohesive. With a staggering 17 tracks totaling 74 minutes, the album reveals the band, specifically lead singer Matty, at their most vulnerable. On “The Ballad of Me and My Brain,” Matty laments the literal “losing” of his brain, wondering where it could have possibly gone and listing several places it might be. The track opens with, “And well, I think I’ve gone mad/ Isn’t that so sad?” and delves deeply into a fractured mental state of the lead singer.
The theme of mental health (or the lack thereof) is apparent throughout not just the track but the album as well, and it’s not surprising; a majority of the recording for the album took place while the band was on their two-year tour, which must have taken its toll on everyone involved. A similar theme prevails on “Lostmyhead,” which takes its opening stanza from the song “Facedown” on the band’s titular first EP. With swathing noise and distorted guitar riffs, Matty questions his own mental well-being, singing, “And you said I lost my head/ Can you see it? Can you see it?” The price of fame seems to have set in, and the band is not afraid to be honest about those implications on these rather powerful tracks.
I Like It When You Sleep isn’t without its more high-energy ballads, however, and in comparison to the group’s debut album, these tracks really hit home. “Love Me” seems to be an open love letter to the ’80s, with the track providing cheeky commentary on their rise to fame all over a funky guitar/bass combo that seems reminiscent of Huey Lewis and the News. On “She’s American,” Matty addresses the cultural divide that exists between his band and their American teenage girl fans, singing, “If she likes it cause we just don’t eat/ And we’re so intelligent, she’s American.”
Of all 17 tracks on the album, the one standout is “If I Believe You.” Opening with what sounds like a somber organ note, the song examines Matty’s own conflicting feelings about religion and belief in a higher being. Initially, his voice never raises above a soft tone, singing about his life’s problems and wondering if religion is the answer, asking “And if I believe you / Will that make it stop?”
With the addition of a chorus, the song swells into a gospel vibe, all perfectly fitting together in what I believe to be the most vulnerable and successful track on the album.
I Like It When You Sleep is The 1975’s best work to date, and the almost three-year wait for the album was worth it. It’s impossible to pin down exactly what the album is going for in terms of its sound or its ideas, and I think that’s what makes it such a solid body of work. From feelings of mental instability to a change of heart in a relationship, I Like It When You Sleep encapsulates everything the band is built around. The result is extremely effective.