The lead single for The 1975's Notes on a Conditional Form is refreshing and unexpected, but its execution leaves plenty to be desired.
It’s fair to say that The 1975’s next project Notes on a Conditional Form is going to partially be fundamentally different to any of their previous work they’ve ever done after listening to their latest single here, ‘People’. It’s a loud, rage-infused punk anthem from lead singer Matt Healy and co about the laziness and obnoxious nature of ‘People’ in modern society who are not aware of the issues around the world today, which continues the themes of active change, and social awareness that was heard in Climate Change activist Greta Thunberg’s speech from their previous single ‘The 1975’.
Listening to it the first time, there is a definite shock factor to be heard for fans and naysayers. Gone are the sweet syrupy vocals and glossy guitar that are the hallmarks of a 1975 track and instead replaced with abrasive singing by Healy and heavily distorted riffs that punk usually thrives from. Beginning with a literal wake up call, its anger never lets up with Healy describing how a generation wants to ‘fuck Barack Obama’ while ‘living in a sauna with legal marijuana’, and that ‘we are appalling, and need to stop watching shit in bed!’ It’s clear that they are aiming for some hard-hitting truths and both the chorus and the bridge are very catchy with the words ‘People like people […] stop fucking with the kids’, which is fantastically screamed by Healy to drill the point further.
To some degree, it’s very refreshing for a modern popular indie band to have a bash at an entirely left-field genre and to surprise their fan base with a sonic departure from the norm. Unlike Arctic Monkeys when they departed from their usual sound but retaining some elements of it, this feels like a clean slate by The 1975 and a bold one to be exact. In addition, the release of this new single is well timed for their headline set at Reading Festival this evening (at the time of writing), so depending if most fans have listened to it already, it will be the first acid test in seeing how well it’s been received by fans (by looking on Twitter, that won’t be much of a problem).
However, let’s not get too carried away on this. For starters, despite being a dramatic change, it’s somewhat messy in execution. At times, it’s unclear as to what the message is, apart from being about ‘People’. It could be denoted saying ‘wake up, we need to do something’ and ‘government, stop messing with our young generations’ (both I’m all for promoting), but it’s mostly surface and no depth as the song never decides which of the former or latter it wants to delve into fully until before long, it’s over before the argument has even begun. Furthermore, the sound mixing sometimes washes out Healy’s vocals with the guitar effects and it’s difficult to understand what he’s saying, which is unfortunate considering how strong the songwriting is that’s on display here.
Nonetheless, most importantly, this is the first real teaser of their next chapter that we’ve got since the end of 2018 because ‘The 1975’, in hindsight, was a speech rather than an actual single. On a personal note, as someone who is not a massive fan of the band’s music but enjoyed A Brief Enquiry into Online Relationships, ‘People’ makes me even curious for the second half of their so-called Music For Cars era. By no means is this knockout punk, but it’s very promising indeed.
The 1975’s ‘People’ is out now via Dirty Hit.