At a sold-out show at New York’s 20,000-cap Madison Square Garden, a shirtless Matty Healy got down on his knees and held a raw steak in one hand and his crotch in the other. The 1975 frontman dug his teeth into the meat and everyone murmured and put their phones up to take a video. There’s something beautiful about it, or at least I think so; I have no reasoning other than that it’s ridiculous and the reactions have been visceral. Some are dissecting the meaning of this act of performance art, but more are rolling their eyes or feeling sick. After he finished chewing, he crawled slowly to a box television that displayed a catalog of ape NFTs and he climbed into the screen.
There’s a viral tweet I saw recently that comes to mind: “matty healy is disturbing, weird, embarrassing, cringeworthy and awful. and he is the love of my life.”
matty healy is disturbing, weird, embarrassing, cringeworthy and awful. and he is the love of my life.
— lucy (@cursedbykisses) November 5, 2022
This statement can sum up a lot of the appeal of The 1975. Fans are disgusted by the heartthrob’s antics — whether it’s touching himself on stage or tweeting things like “might start working on my handwriting cos some of these tattoos are f*cking dog sh*t” — yet that disgust is mixed with a deep, confusing love. So much so that The 1975 sold out one of the biggest venues in New York.
They went on at 8:45 P.M. and Healy sat at a piano, cigarette in hand, slightly messing up the rhythm to “The 1975,” the opener of their bright new album Being Funny In A Foreign Language and not to be confused with their four other songs of the same title. The sound of the track is shamelessly influenced by LCD Soundsystem, who just released their first song in seven years just in time for what many people are deeming the revival of indie sleaze. Healy probably knows this, especially considering one of the afterparty DJs was The Dare whose song “Girls” is an inescapable, Manhattan-centric Peaches homage. While it’s safe to say that The 1975 have nothing to do with that scene, one could argue they’ve got the irony element nailed down. “This will get bigger, if you know what I mean,” Healy sings, opening the LP with an innuendo. But what separates them from others is that they walk the tightrope between irony and earnestness, and they do it gracefully. He continues: “And I’m sorry if you’re living and you’re seventeen.” For some reason, this line makes me and millions of other twentysomethings emotional, as if it still applies to us, as if we’re still seventeen.
That’s part of the deep love that fans have for The 1975 — the way their music feels perpetually juvenile, refusing to grow up. “I like my men like I like my coffee / Full of soy milk and so sweet, it won’t offend anybody,” he sings on “Part Of The Band,” which simultaneously questions our own ability to be sincere: “Am I ironically woke? / The butt of my joke?” Sometimes it feels like The 1975 is a social experiment, or rather just a vessel through which Healy tests the limits of what he can do, such as touching himself on stage. But that’s part of the fun — flirting with transgression. The best part about Healy is that he doesn’t want to be liked — a brave trait that’s impossible to find. The man literally said no to opening up for Ed Sheeran because it just didn’t feel right to him. He’s real. As he slouched down on the couch and touched his crotch at Madison Square Garden, the girl next to me blurted, “I’m uncomfortable.” “I’m very comfortable,” I said. She smiled and said, “We’re like yin and yang.”
I, like Healy, have been drinking too much and smoking too many cigarettes because of the ever-expanding sense of doom hovering over no only my own life, but also the world in general. It’s the kind of doom that forces everyone into apathy. For years, I only listened to songs that mimicked the emotional and mental state I was in; I filled my ears with monotonous instrumentation and passive vocals exhaling words of hopelessness. The 1975 were an unlikely respite. As they played through the new record, no one could’ve guessed that this band’s fanbase is known to be depressed. Everyone danced; the groove was undeniable and irresistible, like during “I’m In Love With You,” a buoyant love song with the simple hook. As they balance irony with earnestness, they also balance dread with hope — sometimes there doesn’t even need to be a reason for hope, it’s just an enlightening, infectious riff or an unabashed declaration of love.
Their live rendition of Being Funny In A Foreign Language was nonlinear and speckled with old songs as well, including “Roadkill” from 2020’s Notes On A Conditional Form and the fan-favorited classic “Fallingforyou” off their debut, which contains the Tumblr-iconic line: “I don’t wanna be your friend / I wanna kiss your neck,” a refrain the crowd screamed collectively. They have come a long way since that LP; their hits could’ve remained their hits, like “Chocolate” or “Robbers,” in the same way that Arctic Monkeys’ hits are still “Do I Wanna Know?” and “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” from their fellow Tumblr-iconic album AM. But The 1975 are moving with the times and continuously unleashing memorable music that sticks. “Love It If We Made It” is a great example of that. He prefaced the song by complaining about still having to play it. I was grateful he did. The night before, I cruised down the left lane of the highway with my friend in the passenger seat and smoked a cigarette and blasted “Love It If We Made It” and screamed along, our voices getting louder every time the lyric got better: “And poison me, daddy / I’ve got the Jones right through my bones,” “Rest in peace Lil Peep / The poetry is in the streets,” “Thank you, Kanye, very cool,” to name a few. The song is a radical rejection of apathy and a brief jolt of feeling in this big cloud of numbness.
“Love It If We Made It” live was invigorating and powerful, especially followed by “The Sound” from their sophomore album I Like It When You Sleep, For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It and then “Sex” from their debut. To continue with back-to-back bangers, they closed with “Give Yourself A Try,” a shot of adrenaline with vivacious riffs and a jittery beat. “Won’t you give yourself a try,” he repeated over and over, and it was like a continual waking up.