The 1975 by The 1975 // 10 Year Anniversary Review of their Self-Titled Debut Album

10 years ago, The 1975 released their debut self-titled album and became one of the most influential alternative rock bands of this generation. So much of The 1975's debut album still feels so fresh, as if it was made just this year. It truly is a testament to how ahead of the time they were in 2013. Aesthetically and sonically, they shaped so much of the culture for both pop and rock music in the years to come and defined the sound for all alternative music artists of the 2010's and beyond. 

Although they didn't release a full-length album until 2013, they actually formed the band in 2002 when Matty Healy, George Daniel, Adam Hann, and Ross MacDonald were in school together. They continued playing together in the years that followed, under a variety of different names like "Me and You Versus Them", "Talkhouse", "Slowdown" and "Bigsleep", to name a few. "Drive Like I Do", was another one of the many early iterations of the band as well as the name of one of their first four EPs as The 1975. It has been hinted at for years that Drive Like I Do will make a possible return as a side project for the band, although nothing has come of it yet. Much of their eventual debut album as The 1975 was previously released under some of those names - "Robbers" under Bigsleep, "Chocolate" under Drive Like I Do, and two different versions of "Sex" were also released under both of those band names. It is so interesting to hear the early, alternate versions of those songs and the journey it took to get where the songs are today. 

In 2010, they started working with their manager Jamie Oborne and eventually became the first artists to be signed to his new independent label, Dirty Hit. The band wasn't called "The 1975" until 2012, when Matty came across writing in the back of an old copy of On The Road by Jack Kerouac. "I found a page of scribblings. It wasn't really disturbing or dark or anything... the important thing that stuck with me was that the page was dated '1st June. The 1975'. At the time I just thought that the word 'The' preceding a date was a strong use of language," he told The Guardian in 2012. "I never thought it would be something that would later come to be so important. When it came to naming the band, it was perfect."

So much of this album incorporates a variety of musical genres, it's hard to even put a definitive label on some of the songs because it varies so much. Matty has described it as, "...pretty experimental, and goes from glitchy R&B to big 80s power-pop to mid 90s soul, but it's done in our way obviously," in an interview with When the Gramophone Rings in August 2013. While some of the songs are more new-wave and pop sounding, others are more rock in the traditional sense with alternative and punk elements.

This album impacted me greatly and shaped so much of my musical taste from that point forward. It shaped so much of who I was back then, and even still to this day. I was about sixteen years old and a junior in high school when I first discovered it in late 2015, which was a couple of years after this album came out. I vividly remember this was also the same time I listened to Lana Del Rey's Born To Die album for the first time too, so it was definitely a very formative period for me. I always credit artists like The 1975 and Lana for influencing so much of the music I have grown to love in the years since. That was such an exciting time for music, so many new artists came out of nowhere and completely redefined the boundaries of their respective musical genres. It's crazy to think that many of these albums that I grew up listening to are now over a decade old. It's a strange feeling to have nostalgia for something that feels like it was just yesterday. 

When looking back on each of his albums in an interview with Pitchfork in 2020, Matty Healy said, "It was the apocalyptic sense of being a teenager, in a major key. Put a bow on it. That’s that record. The feeling of being a teenager, it’s like the apocalypse. Everything that happens, you have zero responsibility for, but it’s the most important thing that could ever happen."

Matty is the primary songwriter of The 1975's music and so much of this album is really taking a glimpse into who he was as a teenager growing up in Manchester and experiences in his early 20's. He is so captivating as the narrator behind this music, there are so many layers and facets to him as an artist and songwriter. So much of The 1975's music feels as equally cool as it is depressing at times, which is a dichotomy that perhaps makes them so great as it is done in a really honest way. They were blurring the lines of so many different genres of music and creating an aesthetic that became synonymous with alternative culture made popular by the early 2010's Tumblr era. It really did shape a whole subgeneration of people at this time, myself included. Critically, this was a very divisive album, with positive reviews for it being far and few between from major publications. I really don't think that this album was made with the intention of it becoming critically acclaimed in the first place. This album and the band as a whole has far outlived the critics in every regard. If you get it, you get it, if you don't, you don't - and that's ok!

Every song feels as if it can stand on its own and is not to be only understood in the greater context of the entire album. It is very accessible in that way. Matty said in an interview with When the Gramophone Rings that, "...we feel the album is lead track after lead track". There really isn't a dull moment on this record because of that.  

It opens with a song aptly titled "The 1975", which has been an ongoing tradition with every album they have released since. Each iteration of "The 1975" serves as an introduction to the sound and style of the album for the listener. For their first three albums, it was the same lyrics, but reimagined with new production each time. With 2020's Notes On A Conditional Form and 2022's Being Funny In A Foreign Language, they took a completely different approach with the song, which was an interesting change of pace for the introduction track.

It then transitions into "The City", which is such a classic and will always be a favorite of mine. The opening drums are so iconic and hearing it will always transport me back to the first time I listened to this album. So much of The 1975 feels so true to their experiences growing up and it really does capture all of those intense feelings and struggles so well. Songs like "The City" and "Chocolate" are what they called "the blueprint" of the band at the time and defined the sonic direction they were going in with their music. Those two songs, along with "M.O.N.E.Y", capture Manchester through their point of view in such a unique way. "It’s just the most self-deprecating, self-loathing song. There’s a lot of really literal references that you can take as well to immediately conjure up a story. That’s not me being metaphorical in that song. That’s like quite straight up, night out. If you’ve experienced those things, you know exactly what that song is about," Matty told Genius when talking about "M.ON.E.Y"

This entire album feels as if it could serve as the soundtrack to any John Hughes movie in the 80's, which they have cited as a major influence for this album. Songs like "She Way Out", "Settle Down", "Girls", and "Heart Out", specifically capture that feeling. Those songs have always defined this era of music for me and are so much fun to listen to. They incorporate more of the pop and funk elements that make up a big portion of this album. The guitar and bass riffs are so catchy and instantly recognizable too. I actually forgot how much I love the song "She Way Out" until recently, it's kind of about the ultimate cool girl - as pretty much every woman portrayed in their music comes off as. Like I said, it feels like it was made to be on the soundtrack of a movie, it's so good. "With a face from a movie scene or magazine, you know what I mean, she's definitely got the style on you," he sings. "She's got two-tone everything, way too intelligent, moving but she just can't move, she's got two phones, everything, boyfriend, telling him 'Find me 'cause I'll never find you'".

There are also some more experimental tracks throughout, like the two electronic interludes, "An Encounter" and "12". They have included a few tracks like this on nearly every album hereafter, but this is probably the best example of it actually adding to the atmospheric experience of the album - likely because they are only about a minute long. Some of the electronic interludes from their other albums kind of drag out a little bit too long. "Menswear" is another one of the best examples of the electronic sound being executed really well in this album. Much of their work after this has incorporated electronic elements too, especially A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships and Notes On A Conditional Form, which was kind of hit or miss in my opinion. It has come to be a signature production style of George, the band's drummer and primary producer, although there is obviously so much versatility in his work. Other songs are more traditionally rock leaning, but incorporates alternative and punk elements too. Songs like "The City", "Sex" and "Robbers" in particular capture that style of music, all of which are massive career highlights in their discography. The instrumentals on those three songs are beyond and are some of my favorites by the band. 

Hearing "Robbers" for the first time I think was a universally life-altering experience for any fan of The 1975. It was an instant classic and one that has only gotten better with time. The opening guitar riff is beyond iconic and the metaphorical storytelling is one of the major highlights of this album for me.

The song tells the story of an all-encompassing love, with two Bonnie and Clyde type of characters. I love the way it was brought to life with the music video too. Matty has said the song is inspired by the Quentin Tarantino film True Romance, "It’s the sentiment behind the film that appeals to me, the hopelessly romantic notion that two people can meet and instantly fall in love, an escape story where love is the highest law and conquers all against the odds. Characters like Bonnie and Clyde always appealed to me as a teenager – couples so intoxicated with one another that they fear nothing in the pursuit of the realization of each other, actions fueled by blind unconditional love. ‘Robbers’ is an ode to those relationships. The type of relationship all humans long for. All or nothing. This video is about when love makes two people feel they are the center of the universe." 

I wrote about "Robbers" in detail last year when they released their song "About You". That song kind of serves as a sequel to "Robbers" in a lot of ways, with the narrator looking back on this relationship years later and wondering to himself, "do you think I have forgotten about you?" and continues to "hold on and hope that we'll find our way back in the end". Releasing a song like that nearly a decade after "Robbers" felt so full circle to get a sense of closure with those characters. "Robbers" is a song that has lyrically echoed through so much of their music ever since it was released and has been referenced in one way or another on nearly every album. "Change of Heart", from their sophomore album, is also very connected to "Robbers" with the call back to "She had a face straight out of a magazine", but following it up now with "...but now you just look like anyone". It is a storyline that connects so much of their music together in such a profound way. 

There is so much passion and emotion in his voice that continues to build throughout the song. One of the most iconic moments in the musical history of The 1975 has to be the climax of the song when Matty repeats, "she says babe - you look sooooo coooooool". Tumblr and Pinterest moodboards were never the same! I saw them live for the first time in 2017 and I still can't believe they didn't play this song at that show (although it was still one of the best concerts I have ever been to). I am seeing them live again this November after all these years and I am so excited to *hopefully* finally be able to scream that part of the song with 20,000 other people at that show!

The album ends with a song called "Is There Somebody Who Can Watch You", which is quite a departure from much of the up-tempo tracks this album is made up of. It is written for Matty's younger brother, Louis, and is what he described "...one of the more saddening songs for me that I’ve ever written". It's about him leaving home to go on tour with the band and worries that he is leaving his past and family behind. It is an unpolished recording that sounds as if it's a demo, only with a simple piano track in the back. It is so different from the rest of the album, but also feels like such a perfect note to end their debut album on. 

The essence of The 1975 is present in every single modern alt-rock album released in the past ten years. Although no one could ever replicate the magic of the real thing, though. Their self-titled debut album is a blend of so many different sonic influences that they crafted into a sound that is all their own. The 1975's self-titled debut album is a modern classic and one that continues to get better and better with each passing year. 

Thanks for reading! I would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below! 

-Melissa ♡


Photo Credit: The 1975 & Dirty Hit


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