“I’ve been shitting myself all day,” admits The 1975’s frontman Matt Healy midway through the Manchester indie-poppers’ first gig since January. On the sold-out opening night, his nerves are perhaps understandable. Fans have been camping out since 2am to secure a place down the front of the 2,300-capacity venue. Plus, as circus barker for their new album ‘I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It’ – a moniker straight out of Pete Wentz’s ‘Overly Long Titles (That Never End)’ desktop file – the 26-year-old has talked a good game. New material was announced via a social media blackout, trolling the internet into believing the quartet were splitting, while earlier this month, Healy grandly stated they “want to be ambassadors for this generation”. With their second album only a few months away, could they be out to achieve these ambitious aims?
‘Love Me’ is a bold opener
‘I Like It When You Sleep…”s opening salvo is an absolute corker. Accompanied by an effective Diane Martel-directed promo featuring cardboard cut-outs of the likes of Ed Sheeran and Harry Styles, it splices the strut of David Bowie’s ‘Fame’ with the bombast of ‘Kick’-era INXS, and features Instagram narcissism-baiting lyrics snarkier than Sleaford Mods’ Jason Williamson with a hangover.
That The 1975 open with it feels almost like a statement of intent. In an interview last year, when talking about working with One Direction, Healy noted that “I spend a lot of my time in The 1975 trying to rein in my love of pop”. Although it’s difficult to judge an album you haven’t heard based on five songs, those previewed tonight feel like the group removing the tastemaker-appeasing stabilisers and hitting the lurid pop button, especially ‘Love Me’.
Monochrome is out, pink is in
On their debut album, the band expanded the black-and-white aesthetic of the record’s sleeve for their stage set. As with their second album’s artwork and the group’s fresh press shots, tonight they’re bathed in garish pink. And if you were hoping for some of the props from the ‘Love Me’ video – Healy’s 2D megastar mates, a pink hot tub, or perhaps a new addition in a piñata shaped like Sam Smith, you’ll be disappointed.
The new album will take you back to the ’80s
Or at least if the songs on show tonight are a marker of what’s to come. All mine an ’80s pop seam that feels more like a calibrated evolution of their sound rather than a revolution. ‘Change Of Heart’ is a soft-focus ballad reminiscent of Madonna’s ‘Crazy For You’, with Healy lamenting “I just had a change of heart”. ‘She’s American’ raids the bargin bin for the decommissioned sounds of Hue and Cry and Johnny Hates Jazz; all funky guitars, a finger-snapping bridge and a wailing sax solo. It’s the kind of guilty pleasure pop you can imagine Alan Partridge introducing by saying something terribly xenophobic.
Over tsunamis of retro synths and morse code bass, ‘Somebody Else’ feels like M83, while ‘The Sound’, pivoted on sampled gang vocals, sees Healy attempting to teach the crowd the chorus (“Well I know that you’re around from the sound of your heart”). If The 1975’s debut felt like a curate’s egg of influences, here they’re seemingly embracing their John Hughes movie side fully. They couldn’t evoke the decade more without recreating the Poll Tax riots in the encore.
Matt Healy’s still as wordy as ever
Those typewritten missives the band send out that require you to have a dictionary by your side to even half understand them aren’t the only times Healy’s lexicon gets out of control. Even on stage, he’s verbose. “We’ve been in Los Angeles making our new album. We’re very proud of it so we should play it,” he beams, before subtly shifting wordy gear. “There are 17 tracks. There’s no way we could delineate what it’s about, but we want to have a party.”
The 1975 played:
‘So Far (It’s Alright)’
‘Change Of Heart’