When's the last time you listened to an album? No, I'm not talking about shuffling through a few tracks, or picking out the hits. I'm talking about truly immersing yourself, through the ebbs and flows of an entire piece of work. From intro, to interlude, and all the way through outro.
Circa 1999 (the birth of Napster) this was the norm. You'd scan the air for interesting artists, and visit your local record store to hear more. But along with the extinction of these stores, and so many other components of the music industry (tape players, Walkman’s, etc...) has come the extinction of loyalty.
Before the days of streaming, having a favorite band was commonplace. Sure, you'd still listen to the "hits" stations, and maybe even some mixtapes. But if you truly enjoyed a band, you certainly owned their albums. Today, this just isn't true.
Amongst a seemingly infinite supply of new material, even I admit that having a "favorite band” can seem a bit like hipster nonsense. Which is why my now three-year obsession with “The 1975” is so perplexing.
First introduced to them via satellite radio channel "Alt-Nation" in 2013, their breakthrough track "chocolate" quickly became my summer anthem. It's catchy riff, and rebellious undertones provided a versatility that I'd rarely come across. Whether I was in the gym, or relaxing by the pool, that song always seemed to fit the occasion. More so than any other song, "chocolate" failed to get old, and after several months, and hundreds of listens, I decided that I had to see it live.
With no one in mind to go with, and no idea if I'd even be available for the show, I bought two tickets to see these "candy" aficionados live in Austin. Several months passed as I awaited the late November show, exploring their ep's in the meantime and struggling to find a date. And then the day came.
Down crowded streets I walked, against a late November breeze. Engulfed by fog, the towers above seemed infinite. Around one last corner, the venue appeared.
Made up of fangirls, professor types, and everything in between, I navigated the floor of Austin Music Hall. The lights dimmed as the silence brightened, giving way to the ambient sounds of "the 1975", an intro track. A buzz built, from the crowd, the anticipation, and the brew in my hand.
Synthetic ambiance gave way to the drum and guitar laden sounds of "the city", as the band burst onto stage. Softened by what appeared to be the encroaching outside fog, the strobes flashed in a melodic way, creating an aura like glow around front man Mathew "Matty" Healy.
Through the bass heavy comforts of "Menswear" and the grungy guitar riffs of "sex" the show twisted and turned, in unpredictable ways. At a fork in the river, Matty made a request. "Let's all put our phones away for at least one track", he said in a somber tone, as a piano emerged, and then he proceeded to spill the unfiltered emotions of "Is there somebody who can watch you" onto the crowd. From jumping in elation and swaying in sorrow, I emerged into the quite night exhausted, but inspired.
I slept late the next day, and several thereafter. Each time, trying to escape to those two hours of fantasy. For a short time, I thought I was in love with the girl I brought with me. But as the weeks went by, I realized that it was the music instead. Month after month, my daily playlist continued without change. And now nearly three years later, I still feel the same.
Their lyrics aren't particularly meaningful, and as standalone tracks their songs aren't always my favorite, but when experienced as a cumulative piece of art, The 1975's work continues to impress. Not particularly upbeat or inherently somber, I go to their music as music to live to.
Over the past three years I've seen the band three times, and streamed countless more of their shows online. I've enjoyed both albums many times through, and shared them with the majority of my closest friends. And while it's rare that anyone enjoys their music as much as I do, I continue to play them on a loop.
So, while The 1975 may not be for you, the only way to know is to listen entirely through. Still not your cup of tea? That’s quite alright, because there are plenty more artists and albums to be explored. But let’s be honest, who doesn’t like chocolate?