Neil Dowd analyses the intersection between music and climate protest in The 1975’s latest release.
There is no denying that 2019 has been a big one for the discussion of climate change. With CNN holding a seven-hour conference for presidential candidates to discuss the climate crisis and TIME magazine dedicating an entire issue to the topic, it can be argued that there have never been brighter lights shone onto this important world crisis. However, in the eyes of many, it is just not enough to stop the impending and irreversible damage that we are causing our planet. Seemingly more so than ever, celebrities and musicians alike are using their platforms to bring this important message to the masses, in the hope to inspire true change before it’s too late.
“We are right now in the beginning of a climate and ecological crisis, and we need to call it what it is: an emergency,” 16-year-old Greta Thunberg says, adding that “there is no grey areas when it comes to survival.” These extracts are taken from the Swedish activist’s essay, recorded for use on the latest self-titled track from The 1975, which will be the opening track for their upcoming album Notes On A Conditional Form.
This is in keeping with the band’s prior releases, wherein an ambient, instrumental self-titled track has been used to open their albums. For those of you who may not know of her, Thunberg rose to prominence last year when she began skipping school in order to single-handedly protest outside of the Swedish Parliament, holding a sign that translated to “School strike for climate”. This action sparked a chain reaction of similar protests from other like-minded young people, who began protesting in their own communities, leading to the formation of the school climate strike group ‘Fridays For Future’.
Fast forward to 2019 and Greta Thunberg is world-renowned for her blunt and to the point manner of speaking in her urges to make a change. Most recently, her speech at the United Nations Climate Action Summit has dominated the news globally, as well as provoking an emotional reaction from its viewership. Linking this back to The 1975, both frontman Matt Healy and the bands manager Jamie Oborne have referred to Thunberg as ‘the single most important person in the world to give a platform to’. Whilst the band have not yet found a way to be completely carbon efficient themselves, Oborne has stated that his independent record label Dirty Hit have eliminated their use of single use plastic. Their CDs and vinyl, from artists such as Pale Waves, Wolf Alice, and The Japanese House, now use paper packaging as opposed to nonbiodegradable shrink wrap. Oborne has also said they have sourced a biodegradable shrink wrap which they will begin to integrate fully once their production plants have access to it.
Additionally, The 1975’s next merchandise release will be entirely environmentally friendly, repurposing old, unsold merchandise into new garments.
“We’re not going to have touring worked out in six weeks because everything’s working against you, but we are going to have it sorted out in a period of time, and 50% is better than nothing. If everyone pushes responsibility onto other people because they can’t completely solve [the issue], we’re already f*.” – Jamie Oborne (co-founder of Dirty Hit Records)
Along with the Greta Thunberg collaboration and the band’s active effort to improve their carbon footprint, their latest single ‘People’ is another in your face battle cry for awareness on climate change. The track wastes no time with pleasantries, as a discordant, desert-rock inspired guitar riff accompanied by Healy’s rabid snarls repeatedly demanding the listener to “wake up”. Musically, the track defies all expectations and acts as a middle finger to many critics who labelled them as a throwaway pop band.
‘People’ is by far the band’s heaviest work to date, embracing their very open love for the cult hardcore scene prominent in the states, with Healy noting Coverge and Minor Threat as strong influences.
Not surprisingly, the music video shares the track’s flair for ‘in your face’ controversy. Directed by frontman Matty Healy, Warren Fu and Ben Ditto, the video features the band performing within a strobe-lit room, with glitching lights and reflective imagery relating to social media, meme culture and catastrophic news being used intermittently throughout the video.
The shots that stand out the most are the close-ups of Matty Healy, one in which he vacantly fires a gun loaded with money into the side of his head, and another of him wearing a suicide vest and detonating the trigger. He explodes into a series of likes and emojis. The imagery here stands to represent how our prioritisation of our own, short-term gratification like saving money on cheap garments – will eventually be our downfall.
Whilst there are many differences between The 1975 and Greta Thunberg in terms of their approaches and the mediums they use, through their most recent works both have been able to achieve the same thing. With Thunberg’s unwavering dedication to hold those in power accountable and The 1975 using their platform to shed light on the issue, both are voicing the concerns of the younger generation and inspiring all to take action owards making the world a better place.
If you’ve been inspired, read below five small changes that you can make to lower your carbon footprint:
- DON’T BUY FAST FASHION
- REDUCE OR STOP YOUR INTAKE OF MEAT
- USE ALTERNATIVES TO DRIVING AND FLYING
- UNPLUG YOUR DEVICES
- RECYCLE (EVERYTHING)