Words: Tom Connick and Tom Smith
There are certain topics you just don’t bring up at a dinner party. Politics is one; religion is another. There’s a reason for that – they inspire too much fierce debate, people’s opinions on either subject rarely occupying a shrugging middle-ground. As time goes on, it’s looking like we might have to add The 1975 to that list.
The Manchester band have quickly become one of modern music’s hottest topics, inspiring delight and disgust in equal measure. There’s little indifference when it comes to Matty Healy and his bandmates – ‘love them or loathe them’ barely seems to capture the intensity of emotions that follow this band. Just check out the comments section below any article, video or interview The 1975 feature in, and you’ll see what we mean.
READ MORE: How I learned to love The 1975
Regardless of what our 2014 Worst Band NME Award might have suggested (that was reader-voted, by the way), we’ve come to love The 1975 as if they were our own offspring. A British band with a genre-spanning sensibility, they’re both consumers and producers of modern culture, the perfect reflection of a time where cultural boundaries and genre tags feel less relevant by the day. Intelligent, pop-leaning and interesting, they’ve grown from teen idols to fully-fledged icons, taking bold strides forward with every new album.
With that in mind, we’ve trawled through The 1975’s extensive back catalogue, to round up the very best of their indefinable oeuvre. From balladry to bangers, pop-punk to Britpop, there’s truly something for everyone here. Go on, Grandad – give ‘em another shot.
A melodramatic, lovelorn ballad fit for a teen romance movie, ‘You’ stands up as one of The 1975’s most defiant cuts. “It takes a bit more than you,” goes the sky-scraping hook, a mantra for jilted lovers everywhere. Oddly enough for a band as arena-fillingly huge as The 1975, it’s an early EP track that’s also a live setlist mainstay. That dedication to trawling the deep cuts, even when they’re selling out enormo-domes, is just one of many less-than-usual paths The 1975 have taken to pop superstardom. TC
Tagged onto the end of ‘You’ as a hidden bonus track (remember those?), ‘Milk’ quickly became another unlikely fan favourite. Like many of The 1975’s best early bangers, it’s about drugs and shagging, but in ‘Milk’ those well-trodden topics are handled with a front-and-centre pop sensibility. As moreish as the “straight lines that unwind you” it’s written about (don’t do drugs, kids), like few of the Manchester band’s songs since, ‘Milk’ is a straightforward pop-rock hit – and all the better for it. TC
8) ‘It’s Not Living (If It’s Not With You)’
The time between ‘I Like It When You Sleep…’ and ‘A Brief Inquiry…’ was revelatory for Matty and the band. After battling addiction, the lead singer spent time in a rehabilitation clinic in the Bahamas to clean up before writing their third album. The stint paid off, with a lasting friendship being built between himself and a key part of his time there – a therapy horse named Favor. This song isn’t about that trusty steed; instead Healy humanises his greatest foe and reflects on his previous dependency, but with an eye to the future. The heavy subject matter hasn’t filtered through to the composition, mind. Built on a spritely pop riff, with a soaring and optimistic chorus, it takes what ought to be a tough listen and spins it into a miraculous rebirth. TS
Sorry, Matty. ‘Antichrist’ has become something of an albatross for the band, you see – every single day, poor Healy opens up his Twitter notifications to hundreds of requests for the band to add it to their setlist. There was even a change.org petition to get it added. It’s never been played live – Matty’s not sure he could do it justice, or handle it emotionally, apparently. It’s not hard to see why it’s such a popular choice, though – doomy, gloomy and powerful, it’s the perfect distillation of early 1975’s most gothic tendencies. TC
6) ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’
Sounding like a lost classic from The Verve’s ‘Urban Hymns’ or Radiohead’s ‘The Bends’, this one is the band at their most grandiose and ambitious. Uniting with David Campbell, the musician who arranged the strings on The Goo Goo Dolls mammoth ‘Iris’, the finale to ‘A Brief Inquiry…’ is a masterpiece in its own right. Reflecting with admirable honesty, Matty is inspired and defiant in the face of adversity (“There’s no point in buying concrete shoes, I refuse”), but it’s the weighty sucker-punch in the middle-eight that makes for the song’s biggest tearjerker: “If you can’t survive, just try”. TS
5) ‘Somebody Else’
The moment that made most first-album-naysayers perk up and pay attention, ‘Somebody Else’ is a heartbreak hit like few others. Resolutely present-day in its lyrical touchpoints (“I’m looking through you while you’re looking through your phone”), it’s the perfect exemplar of The 1975’s ability to turn well-worn tropes like love, sex, death and drugs, and drag them away from longstanding cliches. TC
Another bout of balladry from the depths of Healy’s emo heart, ‘Robbers’ is The 1975’s purest tear-jerker. Complete with aHollywood-ready music video, it paints a picture of young love that’s as achingly sincere as teenage feelings themselves. Lighters aloft, mates on shoulders – it’s a festival classic, and that belted-out “babe, you look so cool” is the perfect dose of semi-ironic teenage sentiment that Healy has become renowned for. TC
3) ‘Sex’ (EP Version)
Sorry to get all ‘the old stuff is better’, but there’s a rough-edged brilliance to the pre-debut version of ‘Sex’ that can’t be ignored. Harnessing their most Americanised pop-punk influences, ‘Sex’ is a three-minute stormer, with a massive, post-rocky middle-eight thrown in for good measure. Those strained chords at the beginning are enough to incite mania in even the most matured ‘75 stan; there’s a reason it still closes their sets to this day. Punky, youthful and laced in a cheeky charm, that “she’s got a boyfriend anyway” hook is the perfect throwback to a teenage time we’d all surely rather forget – instead, The 1975 encourage us to embrace it. TC
2) ‘The Sound’
When it came for the now-critical darlings to play this song live at The Brits in 2017, it felt fitting for them to have a little jab at the haters. As they performed, several critiques of the band – including knocks at their “unconvincing emo lyrics” and suggestions that they were “shallow’ and “out of tune” – flashed up on the nation’s television screens to show just who had the last laugh. ‘The Sound’, then, has become a knowing celebration of a band who stayed true to what they’re good at – penning radio belters and having a laugh while doing so – and doubles down on that playful attitude with shimmering pop production. TS
1) ‘Love It If We Made It’
Few songs manage to capture the cultural moment quite like ‘Love It If We Made It’. A snapshot of the present day, from Twitter meltdowns to incendiary tabloid headlines, drug habits to young, dead rappers, its lyrics span the whole of modern consciousness in just four minutes. The 1975 have made no bones about their desire to create something quote-unquote important, almost every interview finding Healy talking up the actions of himself and his bandmates, and the necessity of culture in the world we live in.
With ‘Love It If We Made It’, though, all those grand ideas came to fruition – it’s a song that feels timely but not throwaway, important but not over-intelligent, and it’s proof that The 1975 are a truly brilliant band, whether your grumpy uncle likes Healy’s haircuts or not. TC