As a musician, laying yourself bare can be as risky as it is rewarding. All your flaws, experiences and thought processes are presented to the world to be judged. Yet, listeners crave honest voices that are real and imperfect, just like them.
Before the release of ‘I like it when you sleep…’, Matt Healy spoke about his nervousness to reveal so much of himself. And their second full-length album delves right into the mind of the charismatic frontman, leaving you feeling like you have just finished a long and in-depth discussion with a friend.
The track ‘The Ballad of Me and My Brain’ describes Healy misplacing his brain, and how he has probably left it ‘in a Sainsburys, flirting with the girls’. He appears to be incredibly self-aware, but also conflicted and unsure of himself. Meanwhile, ‘UGH!’ deals with Healy’s cocaine addiction, despite sounding like an insanely catchy and upbeat pop tune. The singer has spoken candidly about his struggles with addiction before and discussed quitting the drug – yet in this track, he exclaims ‘I’m not giving it up again!’
Of course, the album feels more pop-oriented than the band’s self-titled debut – but don’t take this as shallowness. The infectious, radio-friendly pop songs ‘The Sound’ and ‘Love Me’ could sit comfortably amongst the mindless and superficial Top 40 standard fare. Though, ironically, ‘Love Me’ is a critique of pop and celebrity culture, with lyrics such as ‘you look famous, let’s be friends and portray we possess something important’. As with many things The 1975 do, it feels like a parody of itself – a nod to its fans.
Despite taking more inspiration from pop music, the record still feels like something of a genre hybrid that can only be described as sounding like…well, The 1975. Granted, there are the numerous 80s influences from the likes of Bowie and Duran Duran. But the atmospheric backdrop of instrumentals that swims underneath the vocals has a truly unique quality; the largely instrumental 6-minute-long title track is a prime example of this.
In some ways, you could say that this band is as much about aesthetic as they are about the actual music. Not so much in the way that they look, but in the environment and visuals that they create around themselves. Healy has also mentioned that he was inspired by 80s teen movies and wanted to create this kind of imagery in his music, dealing with love, sex and teenage angst. This can certainly be seen in the moody ‘Somebody Else’, portraying the aftermath of a break-up.
Overall, the album feels like the singer’s way of dealing with everything – break-ups, his cocaine addiction, and the death of his grandmother in ‘Nana’. The album is punctuated by these heavier subjects, which are arguably some of the highlights, because from these come the most insightful lyrics and true emotion.
It might have been a risk to lay everything bare, but it was certainly a risk worth taking. ‘I like it when you sleep…’ feels like a complete masterpiece and a more-than-worthy follow-up to the band’s self-titled debut album released three years ago. One only wonders what risks The 1975 will take next…