The 1975 have always been a group I have seen as an R-rated Walk the Moon. They both are four piece boy bands who were clearly inspired by the 80s. Also Matt Healy’s vocals are so similar to Nicholas Patricca’s, please tell me I am not the only one who hears it. Anyway, I consider myself fans of both bands and was excited to hear this release. The singles “Love Me” and “The Sound,” the only two I listened to before going into this album, were both fun tunes that were stuck with me for a long time.
While I expected something along the lines of the bands eponymous release, I got an album that was much more ambitious than it had any real right to be. This ambition worked both for and against this LP. The group worked hard on taking their time to create a consistent sound throughout the record, not just sonically but lyrically. If I were to compare this record to anything it would actually be The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness. Both records take sounds that worked great in the 80s and add dark lyrics dealing with loveless sex, drug abuse, etc.
Front man Matt Healy sells every lyric he delivers here. As someone who knows very little about the man’s actual personal life, I would say given everything presented here that he is a tortured soul, dealing with the negative effects of the drugs he uses, the women he sleeps with, and the fan base he has acquired.
On drug use specifically, the song “UGH!,” which seems innocent upon a quick listen, details the struggle of coming down from a cocaine high and how difficult it is for Healy to quit his addiction. The theme comes back again on the excellent “Paris” which has Matt discussing how great Paris was only to realize that it was only fun because he was high on drugs the entire time. It takes the beauty out of its subject and it shows just how empty this addiction has left him. It even would appear the problems stem back to his childhood on the closing track “She Lays Down,” a soft spoken acoustic song written about Healy’s mother’s drug use while dealing with postnatal depression after given birth to him. It is a bitter place to leave the album off on but considering the tone this album goes for, it ties things up nicely.
Healy’s apathetic tone towards the relationships he has been in also ties into the themes of feeling empty that are presented on the aforementioned tracks. “Change of Heart” seems to reference the girl mentioned on “Robbers” of their last album, and talks about how the girl is no longer beautiful to him anymore and just looks like everyone else. The pair of tracks “Somebody Else” and “Loving Someone” which go together great. The first of these is about the thought of you ex dating someone else, even when your feelings are gone. It’s a jealous feeling many people feel and it comes across great here. The next song focuses on how Matt feels society is pushing him to be in love with someone else when he just does not feel like he is cut out for those feelings.
Another interesting theme that I Like When You Sleep… explores is Matt’s relationship with religion as he tries to find something to save him from his emptiness. The song “Nana” touches on this theme, as Healy remembers his grandmother who has passed away and imagines how great it be if she were in Heaven listening to him. Where the theme is explored more completely would be on my favorite track, “If I Believe You” which has Matt contemplating God’s existence. This track is not some corny conversion track as it never feels like he truly ever believes in God but instead is just trying to reach out to anyone who will listen.
The album is not all focused on these negative themes, as there are plenty of brighter moments that fit in well. “Love Me” is an ode to Matt’s own narcissism that has come with fame and shows that he can do more than just sound sad, as he is blasting with energy and charisma here. “She’s American” pokes fun at the cultural differences between Americans and the English. The song does not make any deep statements but interesting ones for sure about how we fall in love with different cultures. Finally, “The Sound” which focuses on a girl that actually seems to stand out to Matt and is a well-executed pop song and adds some life to the album’s second half.
Like I mentioned, this album’s ambition does end up hurting it in a major way. For one, this album is nearly 75 minutes long and it definitely overstays its welcome. Tracks like “Please Be Naked,” “Lostmyhead,” and the title track all either have no words, or very few words, and focus on the instrumentations which while are not awful, definitely do not warrant whole tracks dedicated to them. I understand the intention to possibly have the listener relate to Healy’s mind wandering into emptiness but when your listener’s mind starts to wander, there is a problem. It feels incredibly self-indulgent and drags the album down far too much for me to ignore. If it were up to me I would have cut this down to under an hour and honestly it would be much better for it.
Even with that glaring flaw, this is a record that is much better than it has any right to be. This shows the kind of growth and ambition that I wish more bands like The 1975 had. This will more than satisfy fans and I give it a strong recommendation, especially for those who like this kind of alternative rock. A wonderful blend of fun pop songs and powerful ballads, this is a trip into the mind of a coked out musician on the rise and explores the loneliness that comes with that in a way that really struck a chord with me.
Best Tracks: Love Me, UGH!, If I Believe You, Somebody Else, The Sound, Paris, She Lays Down
Worst Track: I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it